From 14th to 25th November 2022 at Amendola Air Force Base in Italy, home of Aeronautica Italiana 32° Stormo (32nd Wing – Italian Air Force), the “Falcon Strike 2022” took place.
Falcon Strike is an exercise that saw the participation of 1000 soldiers, including 250 from allied countries, and more than 50 aircraft from Italy, United States and Netherlands.
Among the other assets involved for the Italian Air Force: Lockheed Martin F-35A of 32° Stormo of Amendola and of the 6° Stormo (6th Wing) “Diavoli Rossi” of Ghedi, Panavia Tornado of 6° Stormo of Ghedi, F-2000 Typhoon of 4° Stormo of Grosseto, of 36° Stormo of Gioia del Colle and of 37° Stormo of Trapani, Boeing KC-767A and Gulfstream G550 CAEW of 14° Stormo of Pratica di Mare, General Atomics MQ-9 Predator of 32° Stormo of Amendola, Leonardo HH-139 helicopters of 15° Stormo of Cervia and Leonardo HH-101A of 9° Stormo of Grazzanise and finally the Lockheed Martin KC130J and Leonardo C27J of 46th Air Brigade of Pisa. For the Italian Navy, the destroyer “Caio Duilio” and a Lockheed Martin F35B of “Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati” (Embarked Air Group) were available.
On ground there were in support two J-TAC (Joint – Tactical Air Controller) teams of the 16° Stormo of Martina Franca and a team of raiders of the 17° Stormo (17th Wing) of Furbara, and with the support of the Italian Army also several units of anti-aircraft with even United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE) units.
United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE)
United States have deployed their F-16CMs of 555th Fighter Squadron “Triple Nickel” of 31st Fighter Wing of Aviano and F-35As of 495th Fighter Squadron “Valkyries” of 48th Fighter Wing of Lakenheath, and for in-flight refueling Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. Royal Netherlands Air Force-RNLAF was present with six F-35A aircraft from 322nd Squadron from Leeuwarden.
The exercise, which had the Amendola AFB in Puglia (Italy) as its main base, over the several days included various operations, such as: Offensive Counter Air, electronic warfare, Air Interdiction, High Value Airborne Asset attack and protection as well as Special Forces infiltration for GAAI (Ground Assisted Air Interdiction) operations and Special Forces exfiltration.
The whole event was supported by various Italian and NATO airspace commands and air traffic control centres.
Exercise had as its main purpose the integration of the various European and US squadrons made up of the new 5th generation fighter together with 4th generation aircraft and support aircraft. So as to facilitate collaboration between the world’s air forces and the possible support of NATO members who have supplied the new Lockheed Martin fighter.
“Falcon Strike prepares our F-35 pilots to carry out missions against current and future threats worldwide,” Maj. Mirko van Meerlant of the Royal Netherlands Air Force
For second time, Amendola AFB hosted this important exercise and the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (Italian Air Force) demonstrated the ability and efficiency of its personnel in carrying out all the activities that are their responsibility and the ability to interact with foreign personnel and equipment. As expressed by the new Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto:
“The Air Force has means equipped with extremely advanced technology, but however modern they may be, their effectiveness rests on the commitment and professionalism of the women and men of the Armed Forces, also recognized internationally. This exercise is the most effective demonstration”.
Also present at the event were the Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone and the General of the Air Squad Luca Goretti, Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force, the latter highlighted the need to carry out multinational exercises such as the Falcon Strike for collaboration between international personnel and to support the skills and professionalism of Italian personnel.
F35 Air Chief Meeting
Special event, for the first time in Italy (normally held at Ramstein AFB in Germany), the “F35 Air Chief Meeting” was held during the Falcon Strike, a strategic meeting under the direction of the United States Air Force in Europe – USAFE as a collaboration between the- F-35 European User’s Group.
In addition to the United States, the F35 Air Chief Meeting was also attended by: Italy, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and United Kingdom. General James B. Hecker, commander of USAFE, said that both Falcon Strike and the F35 Air Chief Meeting facilitate the United States in case it has to resort to allied resources in the future, a facilitation for operations with the new 5th fighter generation for both the US and Allied air forces.
Professionalism, modern technologies and international collaboration are the strong points of the Air Force, a not indifferent business card for Italian airmen, but also and mainly a demonstration of efficiency and interoperability among NATO allies who already own the new 5th generation fighters Lockheed Martin F35 in operational mode, this was Falcon Strike 2022.
From Amendola AFB (Italy): Romano Riccardo & Rastello Stefano
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