Delegation’s visit with USAFE commander helps forge stronger ties

Maj. Krista Carlos
USAFE Public Affairs

***image2***Twenty years ago the idea of Russian and U.S. Air Force leaders flying together and exchanging ideas was almost implausible. Fast forward to 2007, and that implausibility is now a reality – one that is focused on cooperation and bilateral relations.

Top Russian Air Force leaders visited U.S. Air Forces in Europe March 20 to 23 to discuss cooperative efforts and exchange ideas on interoperability.

“We came to USAFE for two reasons,” said Gen.-Col. Aleksandr Nikolaevich Zelin, Deputy Chief of the Russian Federation Air Forces. “The first reason was because we met General Hobbins and became good friends, and the second was for our military-to-military contact program with our air force and USAFE.
“Through this contact program, we are solving issues concerning interoperability, and working on planning engagements where we can exchange ideas for the future.”

As part of the contact program, the Russian deputy air chief received an F-16 orientation flight at Spangdahlem Air Base, which helped solidify relations.

“During our visit to the 52nd Fighter Wing, we had the opportunity to fly on the wings of each others’ aircraft,” said Gen. Tom Hobbins, USAFE commander. “When I was in Russia last August, I had the pleasure of flying on the wings of General Kharchevsky’s (Russian 4th Combat Training Center Com-mander) MiG-29, and two hours later flew on General Zelin’s wing in the Su-27, and now we’ve reciprocated. I look forward to another opportunity to return to Russia.”

During the tours to Ramstein and Spangdahlem, there was one recurring theme that seemed to resonate throughout the visit.

“I believe the main theme that unifies us right now is global terror,” said General-Major Nuzhin. “In the end it will show that we all have to work together to solve these types of problems.

“We are more effective when we work together and try to resolve global problems bilaterally.”

General Hobbins agreed that military-to-military cooperation is essential to success.

“It would be my goal in the future for our respective air forces to fly on our wings together in defense against a common enemy,” he said. “If we can get our military-to-military work plan approved, perhaps we can teach each other how we can be wingmen in the future in an operation against terrorists or anything that might threaten the peace against either of our nations.”