Ionian Sea - The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and components of its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, along with the U.S. Air Force 603rd Air Control Squadron, completed a close air support (CAS) exercise with Romanian partners, May 3-5.
The CAS involved coordination with U.S. Air Force tankers for in-flight refueling and Romanian joint terminal air controllers (JTACs), a ground-control support entity, to complete a roughly 700-nautical mile training exercise.
“The strategic mission is to engage and strengthen our partnerships with countries around the Black Sea,” said Cmdr. David Dartez, commanding officer of the “Fist of the Fleet,” Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 25, one of the nine squadrons of CVW-7. “This shows our capacity to operate freely with our allies to complete our mission of fostering security and stability in the region.”
The exercise required substantial bilateral cooperation, including coordination with Romanian ground control to assist with refueling logistics and ensure airspace access.
“This is among the first missions we’ve executed with Romania,” said Lt. Gerard Anderson, a pilot with VFA-25 and the coordination lead of the exercise. “They’re one of our allies, and it’s beneficial to integrate with different countries to show the world what we’re capable of.”
Using Romanian JTACs enhanced the squadrons’ targeting capabilities, increasing readiness and lethality. A major focus of Abraham Lincoln CSG’s mission in its deployment, enhancing interoperability among allies was a key element of the exercise.
“Exercises like this strengthen defense capabilities against any potential threats in the European theater,” Anderson said. “Our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance is a critical tool for maintaining security and stability in the region; this demonstration builds competence and confidence in our ability to do just that.”
Romania became a member of NATO March 29, 2004. NATO marked its 70th anniversary April 4 this year. Beginning April 9, Romania hosted NATO’s largest medical training exercise, which lasted six days and involved 38 nations, almost the entirety of NATO’s member states.
Abraham Lincoln’s CSG is deployed in support of maritime security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th, U.S. 6th and U.S. 7th Fleet areas of operation. With the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) as the flagship, deployed strike group assets include staffs, ships and aircraft of Carrier Strike Group 12, Destroyer Squadron 2, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and CVW-7; as well as the Àlvaro de Bazàn-class frigate ESPS Méndez Núñez (F 104).