Air Force-Led Exercise in Europe Aims to Sharpen Air-to-Air Combat Skills

The first-of-its-kind competition challenged combat pilots from the U.S., U.K., Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, and Germany.

A U.S. Air Force Airman signals an F-16 Fighting Falcon to stop June 6, as part of a basic fighter maneuvers exercise held on Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The F-16 was an integral part of a simulated aerial combat exercise at the base which boasted a total of 37 aircraft, comprising both fourth and fifth-generation fighter jets. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force]

Dozens of NATO fighter pilots congregated last week at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for a U.S.-led exercise designed to hone their dogfighting skills.

The first-of-its-kind competition, dubbed “Ramstein 1v1,” challenged combat pilots from the U.S., U.K., Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, and Germany.

The meeting was assembled in light of Russian ground gains in Ukraine during the third year of the war that rages at “NATO’s doorstep,” the Air Force Times reported. The allied nations’ air forces envision a need to sharpen air-to-air combat skills as tensions with Russia and China threatened to boil over to a shooting war that would put some of the world’s most advanced air forces head-to-head for the first time in decades.

Aircraft on the ramp at Ramstein included U.S.-built F-35A Lightnings, F-16 Fighting Falcons, F/A-18s, and A-4 Skyhawks, as well as Eurofighter Typhoons and French Dassault Rafales.

“Basic fighter maneuvering is a foundational skill set for fighter pilots," Lieutenant Colonel Michael Loringer, U.S. Air Force-Europe (USAFE) chief of weapons and tactics, said in a statement. "It tests a pilot’s reaction time, physical stamina, and situational awareness. There is no better way to build trust in a pilot’s aircraft or a pilot’s skills than to engage one-on-one.”

“We don’t want to go to war with Russia, and I don’t think they want to go to war with us, either," USAFE Commander General James Hecker told the Air Force Times last July. "But we need to make sure that we have the forces capable of deterring them so that nothing bad will happen.”

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on AVweb.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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