Six American F-16 Fighting Falcon jets and 100 support personnel are taking part in a NATO exercise in Romania along with the host country’s MiG-21 fighters. The exercise, known as Dacian Warhawk, is designed to build cooperation between the two air forces and present a show of strength, as tensions between Russia and the West remain at a high level.
"We hope by being here we can increase the cooperation between our countries and NATO partners and be able to provide increased security in the Eastern Europe region," said Lt. Col. David Berkland, 480th Fighter Squadron commander.
The former communist country, which has a Black Sea coast line and borders Ukraine to the north, is the closest NATO member to Crimea, which Russia annexed in March 2014, and to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
In response to the Russian air force's hundreds of flights across international airspace in the Baltic region close to Europe and other actions that NATO and European countries have perceived as Russian hostility, NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe have been taking place at an increasing rate.
The exercise in Romania, which is expected to last until March 27, has so far seen the two air forces share knowledge, skills and best practices, according to the U.S. Air Force in Europe. Personnel from airfield operations, air traffic control, medical and logistics branches from both countries will work together.
"I believe the next two weeks will be a great opportunity not only to increase our efficiency but mostly to tighten up the bonds between the U.S. and Romanian air force," said Romanian air force Col. Marius-Mihai Oatu, commander of the Câmpia Turzii airbase, where the F-16s have temporarily relocated.