ALBACETE AIR BASE, Spain – Eight F-16 aircraft and more than 200 Airmen from the active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve 419th FW from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, are currently at Albacete Air Base, Spain, to participate in the NATO Tactical Leadership Programme through May 19.
TLP is an annual NATO Mission Commander’s School training program and is designed to provide joint training to increase NATO air defense with participating allies.
“The Tactical Leadership Program is a good opportunity for all the participating nations to work together,” said Master Sgt. Daniel LaBrake, Combined Aerospace Logistics Coordinator and the only enlisted member from the U.S. Air Force stationed at the Spanish air base.
Hill’s fighter wings will participate in training with NATO allied air forces from ten other countries.
“This is excellent training with some intense air operations and top of the line NATO jets from our coalition allies,” said Lt. Col. Surya Frickel, 466th Fighter Squadron commander.
During the large force exercise, the Hill AFB pilots will fly alongside 20-30 allied aircraft daily and against as many adversaries. Part of the learning that goes on is how to operate safely with the different aircraft and unfamiliar environments, as well as different languages and procedures.
“This exercise is a good example of the United States’ cooperation and long-lasting commitment to the security of Europe and maintaining readiness with our NATO allies,” Frickel said.
Though the wings have been on several training deployments together, this is the first time Utah’s 419th and 388th FWs are participating in TLP.
“Traditionally, squadrons stationed in Europe participate in TLP,” LaBrake said. “So it has been a new challenge to coordinate all of the moving parts so these Airmen can come overseas and get this experience.”
The deployment marks the last time the iconic multi-role fighter is scheduled to deploy from Hill AFB. F-16 aircraft from Hill's fighter wings have been flying over the skies of northern Utah for nearly 40 years.
“This is the last time the F-16 will deploy with the Hill designator ‘HL’ painted on its tail,” said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander. “We are extremely proud of the job we have done with the F-16 and we must do our best here at TLP to preserve the memory of the aircraft that is so dear to our hearts.”
Hill’s fleet of F-16s is being replaced by the Air Force’s newest fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II. The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in October 2015. Hill currently has 20 F-35As and will eventually be home to 78 aircraft and three operational squadrons by the end of 2019. The 388th and 419th FWs fly and maintain the aircraft in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components.