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Buzzards return from Lakenheath FTD

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. K. Tucker Owen
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Airmen assigned to the 510th Fighter Squadron "Buzzards" and 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron recently visited Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom, for a flying training deployment (FTD) from Aug. 28 to Sept. 28.

The training marked the first time the squadrons have gone TDY in over a year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"The purpose of the Lakenheath FTD was to get the Buzzards an opportunity to drop full-scale precision guided munitions in training before we go to combat, and train in the missions we expect to do," said U.S. Air Force Capt. John Burns, 510th FS chief of standards and evaluation. "We were going to accomplish this required training in the U.S. over the summer but due to the uncertainty with transoceanic travel during COVID, the decision was made to stay in Europe.”

Though the exercise would take place closer to home, that didn’t make the planning any easier. In fact, with only three weeks to sort everything out, it took a huge effort from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, 31st Fighter Wing, and 48th FW to make the training happen.

Altogether the team flew 292 sorties with a total of 471.6 flying hours, 10 of which were in support of Exercise Point Blank, delivered 90 precision guided munitions, and fired 11,944 20mm rounds. Additionally, the training enabled 53 joint terminal air controllers from multiple countries to attain proficiency through 524 close air support calls.

"The air to ground ranges that we were able to use up in the UK allow for many more types of bombs to be dropped, than our ranges here in Italy allow," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Benjamin Kern, 510th FS F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot. "Every pilot was able to drop precision guided munitions and shoot the gun, which is something we don’t get to do often."

This type of training allows the squadrons to exercise their ability to pick up and move to a new place, while also continuing to perform the mission while in an unfamiliar area and airspace.

"The quality of flying training we received in the UK and the Netherlands is second to none," said Burns. "We are immensely grateful to our allies for allowing us to train on their ranges. We would not have been able to get this training accomplished without the support of the teams at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, and especially Wyvern Nation."