Sunday, 22 November 2020

US air advisors help strengthen Latvian air power

Photo By Staff Sgt. William Tanner | The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, 173rd Airborne Brigade, 2d Cavalry Regiment and other allied forces conduct airfield seizure training at Lielvarde Airbase, Latvia, in support of Exercise Steadfast Javelin II Sept. 7, 2014. Steadfast Javelin is a NATO exercise involving over 2,000 troops from 10 nations and focuses on increasing interoperability and synchronizing complex operations between allied air and ground forces

The 435th Contingency Response Support Squadron’s air advisors visited Latvian Air Force members to assist and build military air traffic control (ATC) and airfield management career fields as an ongoing effort to build partner capacity

The visit is one of many ways the Air Advisors assist in the security cooperation mission while furthering a strategic advantage for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“Lielvarde is an important asset for NATO’s deterrence strategy and Baltic Air Policing missions,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. James Bindert, 435th CRSS superintendent.

The new capabilities of the Latvian Air Force enhance interoperability between U.S. and NATO allies. By sharing knowledge and training, they work together more effectively to achieve military objectives.

Since 2016, the 435th CRSS air advisors have worked closely with the Latvian Air Force, the Latvian Ministry of Defense and the Michigan Air National Guard to bolster military air traffic control.

“We have developed key relationships with all levels of the Latvian Military,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy Podzimek, 435th CRSS C-17 crew chief air advisor. “If needed, we could use Lielvarde AB or any location in Latvia to seamlessly integrate with the Latvian Air Force and ward off any threat in our area of responsibility.”

In February 2020, the air advisors assisted the Latvian Air Force on the necessary requirements for the newly established Latvian Military Aviation Administration to achieve instrument flight rules (IFR) certification at Lielvarde. IFR permits an aircraft to use its instruments when flying in essentially any weather condition and is required for pilots relying only on instruments when operating an aircraft.

“The 435th air advisors’ assessment and training of Latvian military ATC personnel created the foundation of this new capability at Lielvarde, which has received state-of-the-art instruments and infrastructure upgrades,” Bindert said.

During this joint venture, the two countries implemented a training program, an airfield flying operation instruction, and quick reaction checklists to enhance Latvian Air Force capabilities.

“The 435th air advisors have been going to Latvia now for the past five years to develop their airfield,” Podzimek said. “We started by doing a full capability transfer for ATC, and we are now working hand-in-hand with the Latvian Military Aviation Administration and the Latvian Air Force to get the airfield completely certified by 2021.”

Lielvarde hosted several multinational and multi-service exercises in past years, exemplifying a strong NATO presence in the Baltics.

“The 435th CRSS air advisors are trained security cooperation professionals who assess, train, advise, assist, and equip European allies and partner nations,” Bindert said. “Their military-to-military missions build partner capabilities and enhance interoperability to shape the theatre to meet U.S. and NATO objectives.”

Lielvarde Air Base becoming instrument flight rules certified creates strategic opportunities for increased U.S. and NATO operations in the future. Although COVID-19 disrupted travel worldwide in mid-March, they have successfully completed the necessary steps to certify Lielvarde airfield for visual flight rules operations.

“Latvia joined NATO on March, 29, 2004 and has been a strong partner and gracious host to exercises in the past. And the IFR certification will be a valuable capability to the region,” Bindert said.

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