731st EATKS MQ-9s execute first ACE with 31st FW during Op Porcupine

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  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force aircraft and Airmen from the 31st Fighter Wing conducted Operation Porcupine alongside Romanian armed forces counterparts at the 71st Air Base at Campia Turzii, Romania.

Operation Porcupine is an annual exercise to promote interoperability among 31st FW units including the 510th and 555th Fighter Squadrons, the 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons, the 31st Operations Support Squadron, and the 606th Air Control Squadron.

The exercise simulated a downed pilot scenario in enemy territory which allowed the diverse assets of the 31st FW to plan and train together to recover the pilot.

This year the exercise also included participation from the 603rd Air Operations Center, Romanian personnel from the 71st Air Base, and the newly activated 731st Expeditionary Attack Squadron.

HH-60 Pave Hawks and pararescuemen from the 56th and 57th RQS deployed to retrieve the isolated personnel along with U.S. and Romanian joint terminal attack controllers.

“Our role in the HH-60s was to provide a rescue asset to aid in the recovery of any isolated personnel,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Richard Bush, 56th RQS HH-60 pilot. “Our ultimate goal was to rescue the pilot before he was captured by enemy forces. The importance of this exercise is to provide an opportunity for multiple [military aircraft] to work together in a realistic and joint environment.”

The 510th and 555th FS F-16 Fighting Falcons provided close air support and the 606th ACS provided command and control alongside Romanian partners.

“In addition to providing MQ-9 launch and recovery for the exercise, the 731st EATKS functioned as the logistical and operational conduit between the Romanian air force and army and the 31st OG,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michawn Yuvienco, 731st EATKS commander.  “We coordinated air and ground integration between the MQ-9, HH-60, and F-16 assets with JTACs, while air battle managers were embedded into the Romanian Operational Control and Reporting Center.  This ACE exercise is the first step in continued NATO integration events.”

The 731st EATKS was activated during a ceremony in conjunction with Operation Porcupine. This exercise also marked the unit’s first participation in an Agile Combat Employment exercise.

As an ACE exercise, Operation Porcupine will enable U.S. forces to operate with increased resilience and effectiveness throughout the European region and move forces more fluidly across the theater to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative against an adversary in any environment.

Exercises and deployments utilizing ACE concepts ensure forces in Europe are ready to protect and defend partners, allies and U.S. interests at a moment’s notice and generate lethal combat power.