NAMEST AIR BASE, Czech Republic – The National Guard joined NATO allies and partner nations in this year’s exercise Ample Strike integrated training on air and land with joint terminal attack controller (JTACS) instructors.
A U.S. Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker from the 155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska, JTACS from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron (321st STS) and an F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing, RAF, Lakenheath, England, along with nine NATO allies and partner nations all participated in the exercise.
The exercise focused on increasing proficiency levels of all JTACS and improving standardization and interoperability.
“We were able to refuel the F-15E Strike Eagle Aircraft inflight so that it could then continue on carrying out with their portion of the training,” said Lt. Col. Michael Piening, KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft commander for the 155th Refueling Wing.
The ground controllers were vital in this stage. They provided guidance for the KC-135 Stratotanker pilots to the F-15s from the ground for the refueling while also carrying out other elements of their mission.
“We were able to relay target information to the supported commander, who would decide on the possible method of destruction, such as Air Force, elements of indirect fire or organic weapons,” said a senior target acquisition specialist from the 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade.
MQ-9 Reaper aircraft were integrated into this year’s Ample Strike. The 147th Attack Wing aircrew launched flights and supported 32 JTACS with 58 attack runs. This was EURO3’s first satellite handover with a U.S.-based unit and the first MQ-9 launch and landing in the Czech Republic.
“There were a few communication barriers based on using dismounted line of sight (DLOS), but their commitment to the mission and willingness to seamlessly integrate us into the scenarios with unmanned aircraft was amazing,” said an MQ-9 crew member.