More than 60 allied aircraft, including F-15s from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath in England, gathered over the North Sea for a training exercise Thursday.

Exercise Point Blank 20-3 also involved F-16s and F-35As from the Royal Netherlands Air Force and Typhoon fighters from the U.K.‘s Royal Air Force, the 48th said in a release Friday.

KC-135 Stratotankers and an RC-130 Rivet Joint from RAF Mildenhall and NATO Airborne Warning and Control Systems also took part in the exercise, which was intended to let the allies practice interoperability, improve their readiness and deter potential adversaries, the release said.

“These exercises are valuable for ensuring our airmen sharpen their combat readiness and increase tactical proficiency,” Col. Jason Camilletti, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, said in the release. “We will continue to safeguard U.S. national interests and those of our allies and partners throughout this COVID-19 crisis, and these types of exercises ensure we can meet that priority.”

The 48th said that the exercise, which it designed along with the RAF, is intended to prepare its pilots for tough battles against “near-peer adversaries,” or nations with comparable levels of airpower. In recent years, the military has sought to shift its primary focus away from fighting smaller groups of violent extremists and get ready for potential conflicts with nations such as China and Russia.

“Exercise Point Blank provides UK Combat Air the opportunity to operate alongside our [U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa] colleagues in demanding, large scale air wars,” RAF Air Vice Marshal Allan Marshall said in the release. This exercise tested “our ability to plan and coordinate across a number of dispersed units in multiple countries.”

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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