Story and photos by Airman 1st Class
Ericka A. Woolever
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Senior leaders, Italian air force Maj. Gen. Silvano Frigerio, Combat Force Commander; U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Steven Basham, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa deputy commander; Brig. Gen. Mato Mikic, Croatian air force commander; and Maj. Gen. Alenka Ermenc, Slovenian air force chief of the general staff, visited Aviano Air Base, Italy, as part of Astral Knight 2019, June 4.
Senior leaders visited Aviano as part of the first USAFE-sponsored integrated air and missile defense exercise taking place at various locations in Italy, Croatia and Slovenia.
Astral Knight is the first USAFE-sponsored integrated air and missile defense exercise but it will not be the last, said Basham. He continued by saying Airmen and Soldiers, along with partner nation service members, will encounter demanding scenarios in the coming days that are designed to test the IAMD capabilities.
During the press conference that was held, both Basham and Frigerio emphasized the importance of enhancing the strong and strategic relationships between allies and partners from strategic locations in Europe.
This exercise gives our forces the opportunity to train together and improve our ability to operate together in order to enhance collective readiness, said Frigerio.
The U.S. and Europe are mutually committed to facing emerging malignant forces and evolving strategic challenges.
The 31st Fighter Wing has been stationed in Aviano for 25 years. This testifies the strong commitment the U.S. has toward Europe, and in particular the solid relationship and friendship between the U.S. and Italy, said Frigerio.
Participation in multinational exercises enhances the professional relationships and improves overall coordination with allies and partner militaries during times of crisis.
“Bringing together multiple nations for an exercise of this size and this scope, is crucial to fostering those relationships and partnerships,” said Basham.
Astral Knight 2019 ensures that we are in the proper stance, and ready to respond to any situation with speed and agility. Enhancing our readiness, through demanding and challenging exercises allows our joint and multinational team to be ready for any challenges we may face.
Before departing, the senior leaders from the U.S., Italy, Croatia and Slovenia spoke with one another in front of an F-35A Lightning II static display and observed a B-52 Stratofortress fly over the flightline after completing its training for the day.