555th FS concludes participation in Falcon Strike 21

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  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Airmen and six F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron participated in exercise Falcon Strike 21 at Amendola Air Base, Italy, from June 7-10, 2021.

Falcon Strike 21 is a joint multinational exercise with participants from the United States, Israel, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The exercise optimized the integration between fourth-generation and fifth-generation aircraft, increased the level of cooperation in the F-35 logistics and expeditionary fields, and strengthened interoperability of allied and partner air forces during joint operations.

“During Falcon Strike 21 we integrated with our allies, and really improved our interoperability between F-35 units from different countries,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Mac Onorato, 4th FS F-35 pilot. “We also integrated with our fourth-generation F-16s from the U.S. to test our ability to get together and fight on a common warfront and integrate with our tactics.”

The fourth-generation and fifth-generation aircraft conducted joint operations and air defense training to include air-to-air and air-to-ground strike missions and close air support near Italy’s west coast.

“The fifth-generation aircraft’s capabilities are intense,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Timothy Joubert, 555th FS F-16 pilot. “They're extremely valuable partners to the mission sets that we're used to flying and operating in. I would say for most of the F-16 pilots this is probably the first time they've integrated with fifth-generation aircraft on this scale.”

Italian air force F-35 crew chiefs also had the opportunity to perform cross-servicing actions on a U.S. Air Force F-35, showcasing forward deployable capabilities out of different bases.

“We’re testing our integration capabilities with our partner nations and also integrating with other nations’ maintenance teams in a way that hasn’t been done before,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. CK Lewis, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-16 crew chief. “Exercises like Falcon Strike 21 are important because this has the potential to change the way we interact with our allies moving forward.”

Along with 555th FS F-16s, aircraft that participated in the exercise included: U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft; U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft; Royal air force F-35B Lightning II aircraft; Italian air force F-35A and F-35B Lightning II, Gulfstream G550, F-2000 Eurofighter Typhoon, Panavia Tornado, AMX International aircraft, Alenia Aermacci T-346 aircraft, and MQ-1 Predator aircraft; and Israeli air force F-35I Adir and Gulfstream G550 aircraft.

In addition to enhancing combat readiness and strengthening bonds between allies and partners, Falcon Strike 21 provided participants the opportunity to develop capabilities in planning and conducting complex air operations, leading to an advanced level of training.

“This multinational training event fosters the integration process between fourth-generation and fifth-generation weapon systems, a process that the Italian Defence and Italian air force have been conducting intensively since the very entry of the F-35 into the service,” said Italian air force Lt. Gen. Gianni Candotti, air force operational commander. “The close collaboration with the U.S. Air Force gave us the opportunity to test and improve shared technical and tactical knowledge, enhance overall coordination and strengthen bonds among nations who are operating the F-35.”

U.S. European Command and our NATO partners and allies continue to strengthen our deterrence efforts and adapt by improving readiness and responsiveness.