May 2 (UPI) — More than 200 airman with Hill Air Force base are participating in the annual NATO Tactical Leadership Program in Spain.
Eight F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft are involved in the drills at Albacete Air Base through May 19 with nine other countries — Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Britain — the Air Force said in a release.
Assigned are the active duty members of the 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve 419th Fighter Wing from Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah, just south of the city of Ogden.
“This exercise is a good example of the United States’ cooperation and long-lasting commitment to the security of Europe and maintaining readiness with our NATO allies,” said Lt. Col. Surya Frickel, the commander of the 466th Fighter Squadron, which is is the 419th’s designated Fighter Wing Squadron.
The TLP formed in January 1978 and moved from Belgium in 2009 into Spain’s Albacete, the regional capital of Castilla la Mancha.
This is the first time the 388th and 419th are participating in the joint training with NATO allies.
“The Tactical Leadership Program is a good opportunity for all the participating nations to work together,” said Master Sgt. Daniel LaBrake, the combined aerospace logistics coordinator and the only enlisted member from the U.S. Air Force stationed at the Albacete Air Base.
Hill Air Force Base pilots will fly alongside 20 to 30 allied aircraft daily and will take part in simululations against adversaries.
They will operate with the different aircraft in unfamiliar environments, and different languages and procedures, Hill said.
“Traditionally, squadrons stationed in Europe participate in TLP,” LaBrake said. “So it has been a new challenge to coordinate all of the moving parts so these airmen can come overseas and get this experience.”
This is the last time Hill will use F-16 because its fleet is being replaced by the Air Force’s newest fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II. The F16s have flown from the base for nearly 40 years.
“We are extremely proud of the job we have done with the F-16 and we must do our best here at TLP to preserve the memory of the aircraft that is so dear to our hearts,” Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander, said.
The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill in October 2015 and there are now 20 F-35As with 78 aircraft and three operational squadrons planned by the end of 2019.