The focus of the multinational exercise, Astral Knight 2019, was to defend several key areas of terrain from cruise-missile and aircraft strikes.
During the exercise, U.S. military forces worked closely with coalition forces from Croatia, Italy and Slovenia at various locations across Europe, carrying out operational and cyber scenarios.
From June the 3rd-6th, the 421st Fighter Squadron flew eight sorties per day and met all of their frontline requirements, say the US Air Force in a release.
“It’s hard to appreciate the challenges if you’ve never been in an exercise like this before. We’re bridging commands, services, countries and continents,” said Lt. Col. Richard Orzechowski, 421st Fighter Squadron commander.
“We have some really smart, dedicated problem-solvers who helped us overcome the early hurdles that are going to be present at the start of any conflict or large, integrated exercise.”
Strategists say that integration, a key theme of exercise Astral Knight, will be essential in any future war and one of the main technological design features of the F-35A is interoperability.
“It’s truly rewarding to see that we can leverage all the capabilities of the F-35A, which we have all been working toward,” said Lt. Col. Brad Klemesrud, 419th Operations Group deputy commander.
“In an exercise this large and complex, you get the opportunity to see how theory meets reality and put into practice what’s only been on paper.”
For the first time, U.S. Air Force F-35As integrated operationally with Italian Air Force F-35As and communicated with each other over the Multifunction Advanced Data Link, a system unique to the platform.