CAMPIA TURZII, Romania — The skies above Campia Turzii, Romania, would look calm to anybody on the ground, but above the clouds was a thunderstorm of fighter pilots, shouting ,“he’s on my six, shake him, pull up, pull up, nice — lets get them, missile lock, missile one, away.”
At the end of the day, all the jets in the sky landed on the runway safely, but the thrill of what they went through still excited and surprised these pilots, even after 15 years of experience.
“We just had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly against the Romanian MiG-21 fighter pilots today,” said Lt. Col. David Berkland, 480th Fighter Squadron commander.
Berkland, an F-16CJ Fighting Falcon pilot, and three other U.S. pilots shook hands with four Romanian MiG-21 pilots and talked about the lessons learned after landing.
“Hopefully it was just as rewarding for the Romanian pilots,” Berkland said. “We all have a lot of learning to do. We debriefed and talked about what we saw, what we did and what we could have done better in fighter pilot fashion — always trying to make each other better.”
The 480th FS from Spangdahlem Air Base, alternated between aggressor and defender with the Romanian airmen. The dog fight was one of many partnership building events during Dacian Warhawk, a bilateral training mission between U.S. and Romanian airmen.For one F-16 pilot with little more than two years flying time, the opportunity to train with Romanian wingmen is an experience that has a permanent place in his memory.
“It was an unforgettable training experience,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Taylor, 480th FS electronic combat officer. “Being able to fly with the Romanian pilots and to be able to train against different aircraft other than the F-16 was amazing. The F-16 has some pretty incredible capabilities and we were able to do well.”
While the mission was designed to provide lessons learned, build interoperability, and make each other better to keep the skies over Romania and Europe safe, both nations also gained a better understanding of their own capabilities through the friendly competition.