Aviano F-16s head to Exercise Green Flag

11/04/2023

Rumours started circulating on Monday, April 10th that RAF Mildenhall would be hosting 16 F-16s from Aviano Air Base in Italy on April 11th.  These whispers came to fruition when, at 08:05 on April 11th, BUZZARD51 flight of 4 F-16s departed Aviano destined for Mildenhall. Tracking websites showed that the lead jet was the recently specially painted 510th Fighter Squadron boss bird, and, while we didn't want to get our hopes too high as tracking sites can be known to be dodgy, there was some excitement at the prospect of possibly getting this fantastic looking machine. My hope was that we would also get at least 1 F-16D and 1 in the new Have Glass V scheme. And, as the photos and captions below show, we caught the lot! We kept a close eye on the jets as they routed north through Europe, and, at 10:07, the first 4 arrived. As luck would have it, the tracking sites were right and the special jet did indeed turn up!

Roughly half an hour later BUZZARD61 flight of 4 ran in overhead RAF Mildenhall and broke into the circuit to land. 15 minutes later and BUZZARD71 flight also passed over in a loose 4-ship formation. And, by 11:30, 16 F-16s were on the deck at Mildenhall.

The next question was, why here? Well, as it turns out, the 510th Fighter Squadron is currently participating in Exercise Green Flag out of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Wednesday 12th April came around and word at the fence was that they head stateside today. This was indeed true, as, at 10 am, TREND71 flight of 5 F-16s had departed and had started routing to the North Sea to meet their tankers for the trip over, in the form of a USAF McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender II 86-0029 ROMA22 flying out of Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany and Boeing KC-135R 60-0324 ROMA21 out of RAF Mildenhall. The jets arrived into Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst later that day. 

Soon after, TREND81 flight of 5 also left Mildenhall destined for New Jersey. They met with KC-10 85-0029 ROMA32 and KC-135 59-1475 ROMA31. The 5th jet in trend flight was an air spare and as such returned to Mildenhall. What wasn't planned, however, was that TREND73-75 would return due to aircraft issues. As a result of this, 6 jets made it across the pond on April 12th and as of April 16th 10 jets remain at Mildenhall due to a lack of tanker support. ROMA21 returned to Mildenhall minutes after the 4 F-16s returned. ROMA31 found themselves caught up in strong winds which meant landing at Mildenhall wasn't an option. As such, the aircraft landed at RAF Lakenheath. 

8 jets departed on April 19th destined initially for McGuire AFB and eventually to Nellis AFB to join the rest of their squadron. The 2 extra jets were spares and flew back to Aviano on April 21st. 

Having only caught my first Aviano F-16s at RIAT 2022, it really was a treat to catch 16 arrive into Mildenhall. It was also nice to see F-16s outside of an airshow environment and out in the real world. What a fantastic few hours it was eagerly awaiting their arrival and then watching each and every one land. 

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 87-0351 BUZZARD84 

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 87-0355 BUZZARD73

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 88-0413 BUZZARD52

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 88-0444 BUZZARD53 

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 88-0491 BUZZARD54

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 88-0521 BUZZARD61

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 89-2011 BUZZARD64  

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 89-2018 BUZZARD71

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 89-2026 BUZZARD72

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 89-2030 BUZZARD51   

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 89-2038 BUZZARD62

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 89-2046 BUZZARD83

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 89-2047 BUZZARD82

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 89-2049 BUZZARD81

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16DM 89-2178 BUZZARD74

USAF Lockheed Martin F-16CM 90-0709 BUZZARD63

USAF Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker 59-1475 ROMA31

USAF Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker 60-0324 ROMA21