Aviano F-16s Practice ‘All-Domain Targeting’ Near Black Sea

F-16 fighter jets from the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy, practiced combat cooperation with the Romanian Air Force while conducting “all-domain targeting operations” in a Jan. 14 bilateral exercise in the Black Sea region, according to a U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa release.

“In an era of global power competition and in line with the National Defense Strategy, this event demonstrated the U.S. ability to converge assets from all domains and across NATO allies into the Black Sea to generate firepower inside an area that an adversary believes to be protected through anti-access, area denial technology, while also improving readiness and being operationally unpredictable,” USAFE wrote.

The American F-16s practiced strategies for employing the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, with Romanian Air Force F-16s escorting them, the release stated. KC-135 Stratotankers from RAF Mildenhall, U.K., provided refueling support.

To bolster the exercise, the 31st Fighter Wing’s 606th Air Control Squadron also quickly deployed to Romania, where it integrated with its Romanian Control and Reporting Center to carry out “tactical command and control,” the release said. The 1st Combat Communications Squadron, which is based out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany’s 435th Air Ground Operations Wing, also deployed to back up the Romanian C2 hub, it added.

U.S. Special Operations Command Europe, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, and U.S. Strategic Command also took part in the exercise, USAFE wrote. SOCEUR contributed “conventional and Special Operations Forces integration, such as close air support and simulated targets of interest,” and the Navy sent in a P-8 Poseidon aircraft, it noted.

In the release, USAF Lt. Col. Alex Riseborough, air attaché at the U.S. Embassy Bucharest, praised the C2-centric deployments as “a U.S. first and a big step for our bilateral Air Force partnership with the Romanians.”

The U.S. is building its military presence in Romania with a new permanent base for MQ-9 Reaper drones and Airmen at Romanian Air Force Base 71 at Campia Turzii.

American forces have recently grown the military partnership with Romania in other ways as well: For example, U.S. and Romanian troops for the first time fired two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems at Black Sea targets from Romania during an exercise in November, according to Military Times.

“Troops from the Army’s 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade deployed the HIMARS systems using an MC-130J Commando II with the U.S. Air Force’s 352nd Special Operations Wing and a C-130 Hercules with U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa,” the publication wrote. “Two launcher crews of six personnel departed Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Nov. 19 for Romania to complete the exercise before returning to Germany immediately afterwards.”