F-16 Fighting Falcons from the “Triple Nickel” and 510th fighter squadrons participated in a training exercise this week with the first air unit in Europe to acquire F-35 Lightning II jets.

The U.S. jets and personnel, assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base in Italy, participated in the exercise alongside Italian air force partners taking place on Feb. 16 and Feb. 17, according to an Air Force media release.

The exercise, known as an Agile Combat Employment, took place at the Amendola Air Base in Italy and was designed to " ensure U.S. Air Forces in Europe, along with allies and partners, are ready for potential short or no-notice contingencies by allowing forces to operate from locations with varying levels of capacity and support,” according to the release.

During the exercise the 555th Fighter Squadron and the 510th Fighter Squadron executed defensive and offensive counter air training with Italian air force F-35 Lightning II’s from the 32° Stormo, Eurofighter Typhoons from 36° Stormo and G550 aircraft from 14° Stormo.

The 32° Stormo is the first air unit in Europe to acquire the F-35 aircraft, according to the release.

“The training we had during these two days was remarkable being the first full fighter integration with Aviano F-16s,” Lt. Col. Giuseppe A., Italian Air Force F-35 pilot, said in the release. “We extensively planned and flew a 4th and 5th-generation fighter integration mission against higher-tier air and surface threats and all objectives were met. The integration was outstanding and contributed significantly to our training for any future operations we may be called to fly together. It’s the first fighter integration, but based on the great outcome, I see more of them on the horizon.”

These large force exercises “provide aircrew and support personnel the experience needed to maintain a ready force,” according to the release. “By integrating multiple aircraft, aircrew are able to train for different objectives, which is critical to ensuring the collective defense of the NATO alliance.”

The training event “increases our lethality and enhances interoperability with our NATO partner nations,” U.S. Air Force Maj. Eric Broyles, 31st Operations Group of international relations, said in the release. “The 31st FW operational readiness and ability to support allies and partners and integrate with speed is critical to combined success.”

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