An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 555th Fighter Squadron lands, during Astral Knight 2019, at Aviano Air Base, Italy in June of 2019. Photo by Caleb House/U.S. Air Force
Sept. 15 (UPI) -- This month U.S. Air Forces in Europe will lead a joint multinational exercise involving troops from the United States as well as Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Sweden.
According to the Air Force, Astral Knight 2020 is designed as an integrated air and missile defense exercise that involves a combination of flight operations and computer-assisted scenarios.
Participating U.S. aircraft will include U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15 Eagle, KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-10 Extender, E-3 Sentry and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft, as well as Polish F-16, SU-22 and Mi-17 aircraft.
U.S. Army Europe will also send soldiers and equipment to operate the Patriot Surface-to-Air missile system out of Szymany Air Base in Poland.
The exercise is intended to develop a regional integrated air and missile defense architecture, and is announced on the heels of plans to increase the number of U.S. troops in Poland.
"Astral Knight 20 builds on the lessons learned from last year's exercise by enhancing our ability to execute a resilient, integrated air and missile defense enterprise," said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces in Africa commander. "By integrating U.S. and ally assets, we are able to build greater awareness, making our capabilities stronger and more resilient."
This is the second iteration of the Astral Knight exercise.
"Figuring out what is available now to connect, to be able to look at sensor laydowns and build domain awareness first, is probably the quickest thing that we can offer to the [joint all-domain command and control] effort," Brig. Gen. Adrian L. Spain, the plans, programs, and analyses director for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, said last week.
At the same time the U.S. and Poland will be participating in Astral Knight, they will participate in Tobruq Legacy in Lithuania along with nine other NATO allies.
"A trained and ready alliance deters real threats," said Brig. Gen. Gregory Brady, the commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. "Participation in Astral Knight 20 and Tobruq Legacy 20 enhances our professional relationships and interoperability with ally and partner militaries. It also allows us the opportunity to demonstrate air and missile defense mission command, while simultaneously executing these exercises in Poland and Lithuania. We are proud of our strong relationship with our Polish counterparts in the 3rd Surface to Air Defense Brigade who will also be receiving the Patriot system in the near future. We look forward to enhancing our air and missile defense capability, increasing security along NATO's eastern flank, and preserving peace."