Airmen and F-15s from the 48th Fighter Wing participated in Exercise Point Blank 20-4, Sep. 10, with other U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa units, as well as the Royal Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, and first-time participation of bomber aircraft from U.S. Global Strike Command. 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.
The exercise also included first-time participation of U.S. Global Strike Command B-52s operating out of RAF Fairford, F-16s from the 510th and 555th Fighter Squadrons from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and U.S. Marine Corps F-35s from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211. The Royal Netherlands Air Force has sent their F-35As.
The exercise is the first that the recently arrived USMC Squadron has carried out following their arrival in the UK at RAF Marham and follows a period of isolation as a precautionary measure to combat Covid-19.
More than 50 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force 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-15s, RNLAF F-16s, RAF and RNLAF F-35s, RAF Typhoons, USAF KC-135s, and a RAF Voyager.
“What started as a small grassroots training initiative between the U.S. and Royal air forces has now grown into an adaptable large-scale exercise capable of incorporating joint service and multinational assets across the spectrum of conflict,” said Col. Jason Camilletti, 48th Fighter Wing commander. “We stand in lock step with our British and NATO counterparts, and are proud that our collective efforts ensure that we are always ready to own the skies.”
The Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth that took part in the exercise provided the “enemy”, this role adds a significant challenge to the other exercising aircraft. “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.
“They 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.” add GC Layden.
Reflecting on the exercise Air Commodore David Arthurton OBE RAF, the Commander of the UK’s Lightning Force that operates the F-35B Lightning said: “This exercise is an important training opportunity, allowing the Lightning Force to enhance its interoperability with our American colleagues and conduct very complex training for our personnel on a regular basis. Exercise Point Blank also affords an opportunity to integrate with our NATO allies, not only improving our combined potency but also providing a clear demonstration of the Alliance’s resolve.”
Point Blank is a recurring, low-cost exercise initiative designed to increase tactical proficiency of U.S., Ministry of Defense, and other NATO forces. Multilateral exercises like this increase interoperability and collective readiness, deter potential adversaries and ensure the skies within the European theater remain sovereign.
USMC VMFA-211 arrived in UK
Aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack (VMFA) – 211 Squadron arrived at RAF Marham on september 3, 2020 to start their UK detachment. The ten F-35B Joint Strike Fighters jets flew from their base in Yuma Arizona via MCAS Beaufort to visit the UK for the first time.
The US Marine Corps Squadron will be working alongside 617 Squadron ahead of a Group Exercise in September where they will embark on Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Queen Elizabeth to take part in Exercise Joint Warrior.
VMFA-211 Squadron will conduct synthetic training in the purpose built simulators at RAF Marham to familiarise themselves with the local airspace and procedures before they take to the Norfolk skies to fly training sorties alongside 617 Squadron in preparation for their embarkation with the carrier later this month.