Castle Forge 2021, US Strike Eagles train with NATO allies to enhance operational readiness

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece
USAF F-15E Strike Eagles taxi before taking off from Larissa Air Base, Greece.

U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from the 336th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, recently completed intensive forward dispersal activities across Europe as part of Operation Castle Forge. Castle Forge is the premier Agile Combat Employment exercise of the US Air Forces Europe-Air Forces in Africa that brings NATO allies and components together to demonstrate a credible and reassuring presence in the Black Sea region.

The Strike Eagles arrived in Europe on Oct. 6 and conducted training alongside the Hellenic Air Force at Larissa Air Base, Greece, from Oct. 11-17. Subsets of the unit forward deployed to Graf Ignatievo AB, Bulgaria, and Borcea AB, Romania, from Oct. 18-25 to exercise Agile Combat Employment and conduct vital training alongside the Bulgarian and Romanian air forces. The F-15Es then returned to Larissa before launching the second phase.

From Oct. 30 – Nov. 6, F-15E elements again forward deployed from Larissa Air Base, Greece, to Graf Ignatievo AB, Bulgaria, and Borcea AB, Romania, simulating airfield opening procedures and Agile Combat Employment. Along with combined training between NATO air forces, allied integration expanded to include assets from the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet. The Strike Eagles supported protected entries of the USS Porter and USS Mount Whitney into the Black Sea as both vessels continue routine patrols in the region. For the Mount Whitney mission, the U.S. fighters teamed with a Greek EMB-145 and a Turkish E-7T, which provided air surveillance and command and control. This convergence of allied integration demonstrates air-maritime operations as a cornerstone of NATO multi-domain operations, as well as the alliance’s ability to form a responsive joint force.

Additionally, the Strike Eagles successfully joined with the Romanian Air Force to integrate with Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornet fighters presently supporting NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission at Mihail Kog─âlniceanu AB, Romania.

“Castle Forge continues to demonstrate the value that working alongside allies brings to the table, not only for airpower but across the entire spectrum of military operations,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, NATO Allied Air Command and USAFE-AFAFRICA commander. “We are proving that our force is more flexible, more cohesive, and more capable when we train together.”

Our contributor George Karavantos provided us with great shots of the US and Greek fighters taken in Larissa.

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Castle Forge NATO USAF Greece

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: George Karavantos
Source: USAFE

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