Published June 18, 2021
U.S. Airmen and F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing participated in exercise African Lion 21 at Ben Guerir Air Base, Morocco, from June 7-18, 2021.
African Lion is U.S. Africa Command's largest, premier, joint, annual exercise hosted by Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal. More than 7,000 participants from nine nations and NATO trained together and focused on enhancing readiness for U.S. and partner nation forces.
During the exercise, 555th Fighter Squadron F-16s trained alongside Moroccan fighters, performing close air support missions to sharpen essential capabilities and enhance the overall interoperability between U.S. and Moroccan air forces.
The F-16s also conducted an Agile Combat Employment training event and flew a close air support mission at a nearby range before flying to Guelmim Airfield to practice delivering weapons and providing air support to a forward operating site.
While at Guelmim Airfield, the F-16s reloaded weapons and refueled before taking off to conduct a second close air support mission. The aircraft also successfully dropped seven 500lb laser-guided bombs during the mission.
“The teams down at African Lion are taking ACE to the next level by executing it in Africa for the first time,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander. “Demonstrating these capabilities in new austere locations solidifies our unmatched ability to rapidly deploy combat-credible forces to any location.”
The Royal Moroccan Air Force also facilitated the ACE event by coordinating fuel and vital logistical support at Guelmim.
ACE training like this is critical to ensuring USAFE-AFAFRICA forces remain postured and ready to operate effectively from all locations, even austere locations and newly established airfields.
U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom, provided vital aerial refueling support for combined fighter operations throughout the exercise and also provided unique training opportunities for Moroccan fighters to refine their air refueling capabilities.
Exercises like African Lion have a lasting and sustained impact on regional security. We apply lessons learned from exercises and past operations to improve security cooperation between African nations and communication among partners.
“African Lion is an incredible opportunity for our Airmen to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our Moroccan partners as we develop essential capabilities for our forces,” said Harrigian. “Together, we’re building a winning team that can ensure Africa’s future safety, security and prosperity.”
African Lion demonstrates our long-term commitment to improve partner nation capacity and capabilities in support of U.S. strategic objectives.