Air Force participates in South Africa exercise

Two 494th Fighter Squadron F-15 Strike Eagles from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, park shortly after arriving at Waterkloof Air Force Base, South Africa, on Sept. 17. More than 200 members from RAF Mildenhall, RAF Lakenheath, England, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and the Oklahoma Air National Guard are participating in the first bilateral exercise between the air forces of South Africa and the United States. The exercise runs Sept. 23 to 28. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Bonnie A. White)

AIR FORCE BASE WATERKLOOF, South Africa (AFPN) -- Air Force people arrived here Sept. 17 to participate in the first bilateral exercise between the air forces of South Africa and the United States.

More than 200 airmen from Royal Air Force Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath in England, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and the Oklahoma Air National Guard are participating in the exercise Sept. 23 to 28.

Besides the exercise, aircraft will also be participating in the African Aerospace Defense Exhibition, which is held every two years in Pretoria, the nation's capitol.

"Aside from our participation in the exhibition, the exercise is broad-scope with the South African air force," said Capt. Tony Principi, 3rd Air Force operations directorate chief of logistics plans and programs.

The exercise will include F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath and KC-135 Stratotankers from RAF Mildenhall, as well as B-1 Lancers from Ellsworth. Oklahoma ANG C-130 Hercules will airdrop South African paratroopers, and C-9 Nightingales from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, will take part in an aeromedical evacuation exercise.

Even though this is the first exercise of its type between the two countries, Principi said the planning has been smooth.

"We started the site survey and planning conferences in July and it has come together fairly quickly but it's taken the work of a lot of people," he said.

"A lot of hours have been put in by people on both sides of this exercise. The South African air force has been superb in helping us get information and providing us with everything we need," he said. "The fact we were able to put such a large exercise together so quickly is really a reflection of how enthusiastic the South African air force has been. They were great hosts before we even arrived."

Although this will not be the first time Air Force units have taken part in the aerospace exhibition, or flown operationally from South Africa, it is the first time a major exercise has taken place in the nation.

"The goal is to improve defense cooperation between us and South Africa," Principi said. "By broadening the operational understanding of operations in Sub-Saharan African, it provides our folks with tremendous training opportunities."

(Courtesy of U.S. Air Forces in Europe News Service)

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