The US Air Force’s (USAF) E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft is set to participate in this years’ Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise for the first time in 20 years.
BALTOPS is an annual multinational, maritime-focused exercise designed to enable Nato and partner forces to enhance their combat readiness collectively and to improve their immediate response to a range of real-world situations.
Air Force lieutenant colonel Jim Mattey, the detachment commander for the Air Force Reserve’s 513th Air Control Group, has stated that flying the aircraft in the European theatre offers new and different challenges.
Mattey said: “As reservists, most of our training is stateside, so it is vital we seek opportunities to integrate and exercise various operation plans.
“The 513th has participated in three Pacific-area exercises over the last two years, so this time we linked up with the US Air Forces in Europe and selected BALTOPS 2017 as our exercise to learn and integrate with our European friends.”
The AWACS reservists are joining approximately 900 airmen who will support the BALTOPS exercise from Nato nations such as Norway, Poland and Germany.
Mattey added: “This exercise provides USAF Reserve AWACS operations and maintenance airmen the opportunity to integrate with 13 Nato nations.
“This is quite an endeavour, considering we all fly and fight with very different equipment, like data links, which provide life and death information across the battlespace.”
The participating nations in the exercise are Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the UK, the US, and Nato Enhanced Opportunities Partners Finland and Sweden.
Image: The US Air Force reservists from the 513th Air Control Group arrive at Nato Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany, via an E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft. Photo: courtesy of the Air Force photo by second lieutenant Caleb Wanzer.