AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — The 555th Fighter Squadron and the 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit returned to Aviano after a training deployment to Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, Jan. 22 to Feb. 12, during which the pilots and maintainers were given opportunities to work side-by-side with the Spanish air force and accomplish vital training exercises.
"The Spanish are great hosts and we were able to conduct training we cannot do back home," said Lt. Col. Robert Winkler, 555th FS commander. "By working together it brings both our Air Forces to a higher level."
During this deployment, all the Triple Nickel pilots completed their NATO Squares requirements. NATO requires each pilot to achieve a certain number of weapons deliveries using live practice bombs annually to stay NATO qualified. Normally, throughout the year, the squadron will deploy multiple times, totaling 12 to 15 weeks away from station, to achieve these requirements. However, this year they compressed this training into one three week deployment to Zaragoza.
While there, the 555th FS flew 239 sorties in only nine flying days for a total of 30 sorties a day. This is eight sorties more than a typical day at home station.
The 555th FS was also given the opportunity to accomplish low flying training. Zaragoza affords them the chance to fly at low altitudes at night and gradually get their speed up and employ night air-to-ground-weapons, just like they would in support of combat operations.
"This training allows them to operate in all altitudes similar to the environment in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Winkler. "Young pilots, who have only been to Aviano, need opportunities to receive this training to properly develop."
Flying with the Spanish air force allowed Aviano pilots the chance to complete vital air-to-air combat training. The pilots practiced basic fighter maneuvers with the Spanish F-18 Hornets and Euro Fighter Typhoons pilots.
"Pilots don't get to train like that on a day-to-day basis," Winkler said. "Anytime forces are working together closely with other NATO partners, they become more integrated, more understanding of the differences that they have, and they are also understanding of the synergies that can be gain from working together."
The Triple Nickel AMU was also able to train during this deployment. Although the maintainers are continually trained back at home station, this allowed them to work with more aircrafts in a compressed period of time. This gave them a feel for combat operations.
Lastly, during this deployment the 555th FS was able to authorize 39 familiarization flights. These flights allowed airmen a chance to experience what it is like to ride in the cockpit of F-16 Fighting Falcon.