More than 50 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force (USAF), the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC), the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), and the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) participated in Exercise Point Blank 20-04 over the North Sea, Sep. 10, 2020.
A high-end fight focused on fourth and fifth generation Defensive Counter Air integration, this iteration saw the return of USAF F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets, RNLAF F-16 Fighting Falcon jets, RAF and RNLAF F-35 Lightning II stealth jets, RAF Eurofighter Typhoon fighters, USAF KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft, and a RAF Voyager tanker aircraft.
“Flying alongside fellow NATO nations over and around the UK in a complex war fighting scenario involving over 50 aircraft is exactly the sort of training that keeps our Royal Air Force sharp and ready to operate alongside our Allies whenever and wherever the call comes,” said United Kindgom Minister for Armed Forces James Heappey.
The exercise also included first-time participation of U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers operating out of RAF Fairford, F-16s from the 510th and 555th Fighter Squadrons from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and USMC F-35s from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211).
“For the 31st Fighter Wing, this is an excellent opportunity to participate in a Large Force Exercise within USAFE; allowing our warfighters the opportunity to practice fighting a near-peer adversary,” said Maj. John Hamilton from the 555th Fighter Squadron. “It allows us to train alongside some of our NATO partners and boost our interoperability with a variety of airframes.”
Point Blank is a large force exercise designed to sharpen combat readiness and increase tactical proficiency of U.S., Ministry of Defence, and other NATO forces.
“Our Typhoons acted as the Aggressors against the fifth-generation F-35s from the RAF, US Marine Corps, and Royal Netherlands Air Force, simulating the tactics and threats of our adversaries whilst challenging their colleagues in a series of complex air-to-air battles that tested the skills of the pilots involved, and pushed these world-class aircraft to their limits,” said Group Captain Chris Layden, RAF Lossiemouth Station Commander.
Multilateral exercises like this increase interoperability, deter potential adversaries and ensure the skies within the European theater remain sovereign.
“Exercises like Point Blank allow us to validate digital interoperability with Squadron 617 and is an opportunity to conduct realistic, relevant training with the United States Air Force, and NATO’s allies, expanding our global influence by developing capabilities that can share the burden in addressing common defense challenges,” said Lt Col Joseph F. Freshour, the commanding officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211.
RNLAF spokesperson Maj. Marleen Molema added, “We value the excellent opportunity Point Blank provides us to maintain and improve interoperability with our NATO allies.”
Point Blank is a recurring, low-cost exercise initiative designed to increase tactical proficiency and demonstrate the collective commitment to regional security.
“The 48th Fighter Wing and our U.K. allies continue to lead the way with each iteration of Point Blank. Through our continued partnership, we are demonstrating the ability of allies and partners to seamlessly operate with one another across all domains in challenging and demanding scenarios,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. “This ultimately makes us experts at what we do, which is deliver air superiority anywhere across the globe.”