During the numerous iterations of Point Blank, scenarios have included Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD), Defensive Counter Air (DCA) and Reactive CSAR to name but a few.
The photo right, depicts a F-15E Strike Eagle from Lakenheath's resident 494th Fighter Squadron recovering to base after a morning mission. RAF Lakenheath has two resident F-15E squadrons (492nd Fighter Squadron and 494th Fighter Squadron), and a single F-15C/D squadron (the 493rd) - the latter being due to convert to Lockheed Martin's F-35A Lightning, with a fourth squadron (the 495th) reforming as an additional F-35A unit.
holographic HUD, GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation receiver, APG-68V(5) radar and ALE-47 decoy launchers, digital flight controls, automatic terrain following, and a diffractive optics heads-up display. Also included were provisions for internal electronic countermeasures, an enhanced envelope gun sight, and a capability for bombing moving ground targets.
The LANTIRN system consists of two separate pods, both of which are mounted on pylons beneath the air intake - the AN/AAQ-13 navigation pod on the left (Station 5L) and the AN/AAQ-14 targeting pod on the right (Station 5R). The navigation pod has terrain-following radar and FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed), whilst the targeting pod has FLIR and a laser designator.
Exercise 'Point Blank'
“For the 31st Fighter Wing, this is an excellent opportunity to participate in a Large Force Exercise within USAFE; allowing our warfighters the opportunity to practice fighting a near-peer adversary,” said Maj. John Hamilton from the 555th Fighter Squadron. “It allows us to train alongside some of our NATO partners and boost our interoperability with a variety of airframes. We’ll be training alongside our wingmen and partners from the Royal Air Force, the Royal Netherlands Air Force, US Marines as well as other US Air Force units. It will be an excellent opportunity to integrate with other aircraft, including the F-35.”
A F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron on approach to RAF Lakenheath
Aviano air base, home of the 31st Fighter Wing, is located in northern Italy in the province of Pordenone. The 31st FW consists of two subordinate fighter squadrons operating over 50 Lockheed Martin F-16CM/DM Block 40 Fighting Falcons - the 510th Fighter Squadron ‘Buzzards’ and the 555th Fighter Squadron ‘Triple Nickle’.
The Field Training Detachment to RAF Lakenheath was the largest movement of Airmen from Aviano
The first Block 40 Viper was rolled out of the Fort Worth facility in December 1988. Also sometimes known as the ‘Night Falcon’ because of its enhanced night/all-weather capabilities, it was unofficially designated F-16CG/DG by the USAF.
The Block 40/42 version of the F-16 saw the introduction of the LANTIRN (Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infra-Red for Night) navigation and targeting pods, and the associated
During the deployment to RAF Lakenheath, the 31FW participated in Exercise Point Blank 20-4, a recurring, high-end exercise focused on fourth and fifth generation Defensive Counter Air integration. This iteration saw the return of USAF F-15s and RNLAF F-16s, alongside RAF and RNLAF F-35 Lightnings, RAF Typhoons, USAF KC-135s, and a RAF Voyager.
F-15D Eagle #84-0044 heads out from the 'Last Chance' checkpoint towards the EOR at RAF Lakenheath
The aircraft belongs to the resident 493rd Fighter Squadron
since the onset of COVID-19, and in addition to the 16 F-16 Fighting Falcons, 200 Airmen from the 510th also participated in the bilateral training event to enhance interoperability, maintain joint readiness and strengthen relationships with regional allies and partners.
In 1995, 38 F-16C/Ds of the 31st Fighter Wing based at Aviano, were equipped with Sure Strike, which consists of Night Vision Goggles (NVG) and an Improved Data Modem, giving the aircraft quick reaction capability for CAS (Close Air Support) missions over Bosnia.
The IDM allows the aircraft to receive latitude, longitude and elevation of a target direct from a FAC (Forward Air Controller) on the ground. The system then inputs the data into the weapon system computer and displays it as a waypoint on the HUD. In July 1997, Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract to upgrade the Sure Strike system under a project called Gold Strike, which added two-way imagery transmission to Sure Strike, enabling the pilot to receive and transmit video images in the cockpit.
Designed to sharpen combat readiness and increase tactical proficiency, Point Blank saw over 50 aircraft participating, including first-time participation of US Global Strike Command B-52 bombers operating out of RAF Fairford, F-16s from the 510th and 555th Fighter Squadrons from Aviano Air Base, and US Marine Corps F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211).
General Jeff Harrigian, United States Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, said “The 48th Fighter Wing and our UK allies continue to lead the way with each iteration of Point Blank. Through our continued partnership, we are demonstrating the ability of allies and partners to seamlessly operate with one another across all domains in challenging and demanding scenarios. This ultimately makes us experts at what we do, which is deliver air superiority anywhere across the globe.”
Mixing it with the 'Home Team'
“This FTD will help to sharpen the Buzzard’s readiness and combat capability,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel Lindsey, 510th FS commander. “Opportunities such as this allow us to exercise our deployment capabilities, equipment moves and setups, operations from different locations, and coordination with our NATO partners.”
The Block 40 Viper is equipped with a General Electric F110-GE-100 engine
#88-0532 is seen here overshooting Lakenheath's Runway 24
F-16CM/DM 'Block 40'
Caught in full afterburner, this 493rd Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle powers down Runway 24 at Lakenheath
Friday 28 August 2020 saw a detachment of Aviano based F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 31st Fighter Wing (31 FW) arrive at RAF Lakenheath, UK, to commence a Field Training
An Aviano based F-16C from the 31st Fighter Wing taxi's past a 48th Fighter Wing F-15 at RAF Lakenheath
Point Blank is a quarterly exercise held by the Royal Air Force and the 48th Fighter Wing, part of United States Air Forces in Europe. The exercise is now in its fifth year, having been running since 2016. One of its goals is to maintain a high state of readiness, and to improve interoperability between the RAF and US Air Force. During the deployment to Lakenheath, the 31st FW F-16s conducted operations with the 48th FW F-15s.
A 31st Fighter Wing F-16CM head's out for a morning mission at RAF Lakenheath in September 2020
The aircraft is armed with pairs of AIM-120 AMRAAMs on the wing-tip pylons, AIM-9 Sidewinders on the outer-wing pylons, and GBU-12 Paveway laser-guided bombs
breeze into Lakenheath
In recent years, the introduction of fifth generation aircraft such as the F-35 has seen Point Blank move up a step, the importance of integrating fourth and fifth-generation aircraft capabilities being paramount, as within the European theatre, the RAF, USAF and its NATO allies and partner nations are introducing the F-35 at pace.
With large exercises between the NATO allies enabling them to share tactics, training, and procedures, co-ordinating the number of aircraft participating in an exercise such as Point Blank involves a lot of ground support staff - maintaining aircraft, providing air traffic control, and managing the battle-space within the designated training area.
Detachment (FTD) alongside the F-15s of the resident 48th Fighter Wing (48 FW). The F-16s from the 510th Fighter Squadron (510 FS) 'Buzzards' conducted Close Air Support (CAS) training with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron, the 19th Regiment Royal Artillery and the 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron, enhance their combat capabilities in support of European Theater operations - remaining at RAF Lakenheath until the 28 September. The deployment also saw crews from both Aviano squadrons participate in exercise Point Blank 20-4.
A 'Buzzards' F-16C recovers to RAF Lakenheath during the deployment from Aviano