RAF News

Exercise Falcon Strike 21

Three F-35B Lightnings on the ground with personnel and pilot.

The UK Carrier Strike Group has participated in Falcon Strike 21, a multinational training exercise led by the Italian Air Force which saw F-35 Lightning stealth fighters from four nations train together for the first time.

Centred on Amendola Air Base, Italy, Falcon Strike 21 was the primary exercise for the Italian Air Force this year and provided a unique opportunity to enhance the interoperability of partners and allies operating the advanced F-35 stealth aircraft.

Aircraft carrier with Royal Navy Merlin's and F-35B Lightnings taking off.

“Falcon Strike represents the coming together of fourth and fifth generation combat aircraft from some of the world’s most advanced militaries, including British and American F-35B strike fighters flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth.  Notably this Exercise demonstrates the multi-national, multi-service character of the Joint Strike Fighter programme, with ‘A’ and ‘B’ variants drawn from four nations, operated by air force, navy and marine corps, and, in the case of HMS Queen Elizabeth, a mix of all three.  It is a truly integrated, truly joint endeavour.”

Captain Blackmore
Commander of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Carrier Air Group

The cutting-edge capabilities of Lightning demand detailed and thorough planning to generate the complex air operations which reflect both the challenges of operating in a multinational, joint force environment, and which put the aircraft through their paces.  In so doing the aim is to improve the defence capabilities of the UK and its allies against a range of current and future threats. 

“Together, our aim is to learn from one another how best to harness the full potential of these enormously powerful aircraft and apply their advanced capabilities to an increasingly complex and contested battle space.”

Captain Blackmore
Commander of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Carrier Air Group

Each day of the exercise presented different tests for participants.  These included high valuable air asset protection/attack, air interdiction with strategic and tactical multi surface-to-air missile threats, digital close air support, dynamic targeting and escorted convoy attack.  Exercise areas will include Sicily and Sardinia and the use of an Electronic Warfare range.

“Since leaving Portsmouth the level of training the squadron has received, both in terms of quality and tempo, is quite remarkable.  The intense work up training we received in the lead up to Carrier Strike Group 21 is paying dividends, enabling us to now hone our tactics, techniques and procedures to enhance the already phenomenal capabilities of this jet and of UK carrier strike.”

Pilot from 617 Squadron

The Exercise is the latest in a busy programme for the UK Carrier Strike Group which is on a 28-week deployment spanning over 26,000 nautical miles.  In total, the Group will carry out engagements and exercises with 40 nations across the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific including India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore.

Two F-35B Lightnings on the ground.

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