The Air Force’s 31st Fighter Wing participated in the annual Operation Porcupine exercise on Thursday in Romania, employing U.S. F-16s, HH-60s, and MQ-9s.
The exercise was designed to replicate rescuing a downed F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, involving those from the 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons, 510th Fighter Squadron and 606th Air Control Squadron, among other units.
In addition to U.S. and Romanian joint terminal attack controllers, HH-60 Pave Hawks and pararescuemen from the 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons worked together to successfully retrieve the pilot, who employed Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape methods with a SERE specialist to successfully dodge enemy troops.
“Our role in the HH-60s was to provide a rescue asset to aid in the recovery of any isolated personnel,” U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Richard Bush, 56th Rescue Squadron HH-60 pilot, said in an Air Force news release. “Our ultimate goal was to rescue the pilot before he was captured by enemy forces. The importance of this exercise is to provide an opportunity for multiple [military aircraft] to work together in a realistic and joint environment.”
The 56th Rescue Squadron landed the HH-60 Hawk near the downed pilot as pararescuemen from the 57th Rescue Squadron found the pilot and guided him back to the helicopter. The pararescuemen then tended to the pilot’s broken arm and back pain.
“There were definitely some things that arose that we had to work through on the fly, but overall I would call it a success and next year I imagine it will be the same,” Bush said.
The Air Force started completing MQ-9 Reaper missions from Romania last month after basing a squadron of the drones at the 71st Air Base in Campia Turzii air base in Romania.