Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) from NATO’s Enhanced Presence (eFP) battle group ran drills with Força Aérea Portuguesa (FAP, Portuguese Air Force) Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons and Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI, Italian Air Force) Eurofighter F-2000As from October 4-6.
The Portuguese F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons that participated in these drills hailed from Esquadra 201 (201 Squadron) ‘Falcões (Hawks)’, which is currently deployed to Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, in support of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission. The Italian F-2000As are from the AMI’s 36° Stormo (36th Wing), which are also deployed on BAP operations from Ämari Air Base in Estonia.
The JTACs who ran the drills with these allied multi-role fighters were from France and the UK. JTACs are specially trained in air-land integration, allowing them to communicate directly with fighter aircrews via radio to coordinate close air support operations.
NATO allies regularly train with JTACs in the Baltic region to both enhance and maintain military capabilities, while improving the familiarisation between ground troops and air assets when they are operating in the same location. The integration between ground and air forces strengthens the defensive alliance by providing certainty that each domain can work together seamlessly.
Brig Gen Joel Carey, the deputy chief of staff for Operations at the NATO’s Allied Air Command, said: “Utilising NATO air assets to integrate with allied JTACs demonstrates our interoperability and underlines our constant readiness to protect the Baltic Sea region. Routine training involving soldiers and aviators builds critical relationships that ensure joint operations can be executed rapidly wherever and whenever needed.”