Air Force CV-22 Ospreys and other aircraft teamed up with the Ukrainian military this week in training exercises, and turned heads as they passed over Kyiv.
The Ospreys, as well as MC-130Js, were from the 352nd Special Operations Wing out of RAF Mildenhall, and were taking part in Exercise Fiction Urchin with Ukrainian special operations forces, the wing said in a Facebook post Wednesday.
The exercise marked the first time AFSOC Ospreys and MC-130Js have supported the Ukrainian SOF Qualification Course for special operations air-ground integration training, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said in a Sept. 17 release.
The Kyiv Post reported that the Air Force Special Operations Command Ospreys flew over the center of the capital city, along the banks of the Dnipro River, at a low altitude that day. Kyiv citizens got a heads up about the flight from the U.S. Embassy to Ukraine, and they flooded social media with pictures and videos of the tilt-rotor aircraft, the Post reported.
The other U.S.-Ukrainian military training exercises, which began Sept. 17 and were scheduled to run through the end of this week, include Joint Endeavor 2020 and Rapid Trident 20, the U.S. embassy said.
As part of Fiction Urchin, U.S. and Ukrainian special operations forces are conducting training in multiple locations throughout Ukraine. The troops are practicing tactics and procedures such as fast rope insertion and extraction and military free fall as part of their effort to improve SOF capabilities and interoperability, the release said.
The 352nd said in a tweet that its Ospreys conducted fast rope training with Ukrainian SOF and U.S. Army Special Forces near Berdychiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.
Joint Endeavor, scheduled to run from Sept. 21 to 26, is an exercise in which the Ukrainian military conducts readiness training exercises and evaluations, with the American military’s support, the embassy said.
And Rapid Trident, which began Sept. 17, is being led by the U.S. Army and is hosted by Ukraine, the embassy said in its release. Rapid Trident involves about 4,000 military personnel from 10 countries in the region of Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine. Rapid Trident is a “culminating and validating event" for Ukrainian troops working under the guidance of allied and partner nations at the International Peacekeeping Security Center near Yavoriv, Ukraine, the release said.
The embassy said the operations and exercises show the strength of the U.S-Ukrainian partnership.
The U.S. military has sought to bolster its relationship with Ukraine and support the nation in recent years, since Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014 and backing of separatists in the nation’s eastern region. More than 14,000 Ukrainians have died in the conflict with Russians and Russian-backed forces since 2014.
The Air Force has conducted several training exercises with Ukrainian forces, and in the Black Sea region, in recent months. For example, a trio of B-52 Stratofortresses flew from RAF Fairford to Ukraine earlier this month to train alongside the nation’s fighter pilots.
And in May, a pair of B-1B Lancers flew to the Black Sea region to practice taking out ships with the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile.
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 Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.