March 24 (UPI) -- Air forces from Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands began conducting air-to-air refueling exercises with tanker aircraft.
The European Air-to-Air Refueling Training, or EART 2017, is an annual training event performed to improve tanker performance during combat missions. This year's exercises are hosted by the Netherlands.
According to the European Defense Agency, the event aims to bolster tanker crew experience and enhance international cooperation and interoperability between the forces.
The EDA has identified European air-to-air refueling performance as a problem, citing recent operations in Libya, Mali and Kosovo. During those missions, European pilots relied heavily on U.S. assets to stay in the air.
To alleviate this capability gap, the EDA is encouraging partner forces to optimize asset use, increase overall air-to-air refueling capacity and reduce fleet fragmentation.
EART 2017 will be hosted at the Dutch air force base in Eindhoven from March 26 to April 7.