Air Force Reserve Airmen and KC-135 Stratotankers from the 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Md., took part in Northern Viking 11, a biennial NATO air-space and maritime protection exercise here June 3-10, 2011.
This year approximately 450 NATO military members from the U.S., Norway, Italy, Iceland and Denmark worked side-by-side, simulating operations that prepare the countries to respond quickly to international conflict or emergency situations.
Reserve crews delivered nearly 130,000 pounds of fuel to fighter aircraft from the Royal Norwegian Air Force and the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard.
“This exercise allows a venue for NATO forces to come together, train as we would fight, operate within the European theater and this kind of training provides that continuity from year-to-year to sustain our combat capability,” said Air Force Col. Brian Vaughn, exercise director for NV11.
“It’s been really great training across the board, for both us and the NATO forces. Scenarios like setting up a tanker cell with Italy and working with a totally integrated group of Reserve, Air National Guard and NATO forces all were great experiences,” said Maj. Scott Clark, KC-135 pilot and 459th ARW detachment commander for the exercise.
For the Royal Norwegian Air Force especially, the exercise was an opportunity for new F-16 pilots to hone their skills in aerial refueling while working with the 459th ARW and the KC-135. In order to be combat-ready, RNAF pilots must stay current on tanker operations, which NV11 helps to provide.
Capt. Vegar Johansen, RNAF pilot and NV11 Norwegian detachment commander said this is the first deployment for many of his younger pilots participating in the exercise. He said exercises like NV11 allowed the pilots to prepare for real-world scenarios, like Operation Odyssey Dawn.
“Since we do not have any tankers in Norway, we have to rely on U.S. to get this type of training and allow our air force to be combat ready,” Captain Johansen said.
Lt. Col. Ivan Rismo, NV11 detachment commander for Norwegian forces worked with Captain Johansen in overseeing air operations as well as coalition command and control operations on the ground.
“Air-to-air refueling and maintaining proficiency is a requirement for our pilots, so having an opportunity to come out and work with the U.S. tanker as part of the exercise is really great,” Colonel Rismo said. “We are very happy to see this exercise come through and it is very interoperable in the way we are doing it.”
The Italian Air Force also played an important role in the exercise. Their Eurofighter Typhoon pilots flew for the first time alongside F-16 pilots from the 115th FW and the RNAF in conducting daily missions.
In order to refuel the Eurofighters, Italy relied on their KC-130J, a propeller-based aircraft. Their pilots had to coordinate closely with the 459th ARW on unified tanker support, airspace usage and mission planning during the exercise.
“It was a great experience working with them [the 459th ARW] and coordinating the area. Safety was a must during the exercise and they did a good job.” Italy Capt. Boria Luciano, 46th Air Brigade KC-130J pilot and team chief said.