F-16 Fighting Falcons and airmen assigned to the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Wing, have deployed to Poland to take part in a joint training exercise, according to the Air Force.
The aircraft and personnel have deployed to the 32nd Tactical Air Base in Łask AB, Poland to participate in and support Aviation Detachment Rotation 20.4, officials said in a media release.
ADR’s are bilateral training exercises and deployments designed to enhance partner interoperability, maintain joint readiness and assure U.S. regional allies. During this rotation, the 480th EFS will be integrating with Polish partners to support Operation Atlantic Resolve, said Col. David Epperson, commander of the 52nd Fighter Wing.
“We will be flying with them, working on the front line with them and learning from them,” said Epperson, adding that ADR’s are a way for the U.S. to continue building partnerships and working with allies.
“We typically do quite a few ADR’s during the year,” said Epperson. “Despite COVID-19 and the drawbacks the pandemic had brought, the 480th EFS has been the first to come to 32nd TAB this year, allowing us to continue to maintain our deterrence, build our partnership and learn from each other.”
During ADR 20.4, the squadron will be working on multiple mission sets, Epperson said in an Air Force news release.
“Defensive Counter Air is one of the missions we will be working on during our time here in Poland, which consists of large force packages and immense training that we cannot get on our own,” said Epperson. “Another mission we will continue to work on will be Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, where we will integrate that capability with our Polish Allies and show them what we can provide in order to get them into a target area and back out safely.”
Polish air force Col. Tomasz Jatczak, 32nd Tactical Air Base commander, said his goals with the ADR 20.4 are to update proficiency from the Polish side and integrate procedures with the U.S.
“We are going to fly, plan and execute,” said Jatczak. “But now we have two units here at Łask AB. Two units with one mission, which is to improve warfighting skills and joint readiness.” Jatczak said he is looking forward to progressing partnerships with the U.S. “Integration is the best part about this ADR,” said Jatczak. “We will get a chance to fly together, update our procedures and best of all become better pilots and Airmen.”
The training comes as the U.S. is shifting forces to Poland. When Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced a plan July 29 to withdraw just under 12,000 troops from Germany and partially redistribute them around Europe, he alluded to co-locating some of those troops in existing European countries’ facilities, including in Belgium and Italy.
That would include new projects in Poland, which will house U.S. troops on Polish bases.
It’s all part of American military’s presence in Europe shifting eastward, the Defense Department has confirmed, as a new agreement with Poland sets up a host of construction projects designed to support more U.S. troops in that country.
In addition to the 4,500 troops that currently rotate from the U.S., “Poland has agreed to fund infrastructure and logistical support to U.S. forces,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Campbell told Military Times. An increase of 1,000 rotational troops is also still on tap.
The plan is part of an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement completed Aug. 3.
“Alongside the recently announced European strategic force posture changes, the EDCA will enhance deterrence against Russia, strengthen NATO, reassure our Allies, and our forward presence in Poland on NATO’s eastern flank will improve our strategic and operational flexibility,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.