Lone Star Gunfighters join up with Czech Forces
Nine years after making their first appearance in the Czech Republic, the Lone Star Gunfighters returned on Czech soil in June 2018. In the evening of Friday 15 June, six F-16C/D Vipers from the 149th FW of the Texas Air National Guard touched ground on Čáslav Air Base for the two-week bi-national exercise Sky Avenger 2018.
The Czech Air Force participation during Sky Avenger 2018 involved JAS-39 Gripen and L-159 ALCA fighter jets from Čáslav Air Base and Mi-24/35 and Mi-171 helicopters flying from their home base, 22nd Helicopter Base at Náměšť nad Oslavou. The Texas Air National Guard participated with the 6 Vipers. Four of them were easily recognizable as Texas Vipers by their SA tail code and Texas flag on the fin tip. The other two were on loan from two other units: the Vermont and Alabama ANG. The two KC-135s that were used to refuel the F-16s during their flight from the U.S. were stationed at Pardubice Air Base, less than 40 kilometres from Čáslav and also participated in the exercise.
Sky Avenger 2018 (SKAR18) started on Monday morning 18 June 2018 with an official opening ceremony. From the next day on, two mission sets were flown daily. The exercise consisted of two sorts of missions: ‘Shadow’ and ‘COMAO’ missions. During the Shadow missions, Basic Fighter Manoeuvres were exercised between the F-16s, Gripens and ALCAs. In the first week the participants only flew Shadow missions. During the second week the Shadow missions were only flown in the afternoon, while the morning was reserved for a COMAO mission. The COMposite Air Operations missions allowed the pilots to practice the cooperation between Vipers, Gripens and ALCAs, the tactics and procedures. During the nine operational days of Sky Avenger 2018, pilots accomplished 153 sorties and 215 flight hours.
On Friday 29 June 2018 the Vipers took off from Čáslav Air Base for the last time to head home to The Lone Star State.
A Dutch version of this story was published in the December 2018 issue of Full Stop Magazine and in the Decmber 2018 issue of Take-Off Magazine.