RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — As the Ukrainian Air Force continues its steady progress, information exchanges with partnering nations such as U.S. Air Forces in Europe help further that development, said Gen.-Col. Anatoliy Yakovich Toropchyn, Chief of the Ukrainian Air Forces.
"A visit like this is a good opportunity to gain experience from USAFE which relates to the optimization of force structure and operations with regards to the future development of the Ukrainian Air Force," said Toropchyn during his four-day visit here that ended Jan. 26.
The mutual benefit was also highlighted by Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop, the 3rd Air Force commander, who spent time with Toropchyn during his visit.
"These exchanges show an increasing level of cooperation that USAFE has with the Ukrainian Air Force," said Bishop, who paid a similar visit to his Ukrainian Air Force counterparts last year. "We consider the Ukraine to be an important strategic partner and view these exchanges as an excellent opportunity to gather together and discuss interoperability while strengthening our partnership. It's just a good thing."
The timing of the partnership exchange is especially critical now as the two countries pursue a common enemy in the Global War on Terrorism, Toropchyn said. Joint endeavors such as combined training and exercises can only strengthen the ability to respond and prevail in the fight against terrorism, he said.
Areas that Toropchyn said his delegation are interested in include how USAFE conducts training and military education, logistics support, and airlift operations and execution.
"The level of training and how your Air Force personnel are prepared - I have to applaud," said Toropchyn, who leads an air force that came into being in 1992 following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the subsequent declaration of independence by the Ukraine.
During his visit, Toropchyn and his entourage visited various sites that included the 603rd Air Operations Center, 86th Maintenance Group, 86th Contingency Response Group, Kisling NCO Academy, 723rd Air Mobility Squadron and the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility.
Although Toropchyn described the Ukrainian Air Force as a "quite young service," he proudly pointed to numerous accomplishments and achievements the past year, officially called "The Year of the Air Force" by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and the Ukrainian Chief of the General Staff.
The accomplishments included:
— Several large-scale exercises featuring practical combat application such as providing airlift to anti-aircraft teams successfully firing S200 and S300 anti-aircraft missiles
— Conducting live-fire exercises during nighttime
— Initiating the development of an automated management system to enhance air defense capability
— Concluding the creation of a new three-dimensional radar system
"I think we have accomplished a lot, and we think that the coming year will be even better even though the last year was probably one of the best years since the Ukrainian Air Force was established," said Toropchyn.
The coming year, he added, will include plans to update the MiG-29 and Su-25 aircraft, followed the year after by modernization of the Su-27.
The future, Toropchyn noted, will also include more exchanges such as the visit to Ramstein.
"We have already discussed the big issues related to further development of our cooperation between the Ukrainian Air Force and the U.S. Air Force." The same intent was shared by Bishop.
"I think I can speak on behalf of USAFE Commander General [Tom] Hobbins when I say that whenever there's an opportunity for us to exchange good ideas and further the bond between our two air forces, we are willing to foster that exchange," Bishop said.
(Courtesy U.S. Air Forces in Europe News Service)