In early June, the US Air Force’s 8th FW (also known as the famous “Wolfpack”), based at Kunsan in South Korea, hosted Buddy Wing 15-4. The Buddy Wing program is an initiative of the USAF’s 7th Air Force as a means to foster and maintain close ties and interoperability with the Republic Of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) by training and flying combined missions with their Korean counterparts.
The Korean peninsula has a large number of Korean and US military forces packed into a limited area, so close co-ordination and regular training is vital to ensuring safe and effective operations and, whilst the Wolfpack shares its base and regularly flies sorties with the F-16s of the 111th Fighter Squadron, 38th Fighter Group of the ROKAF, the aim of Buddy Wing is to extend this co-operation and training to other units of the Korean and US Air Forces.
The program sees both the 8thFW at Kunsan and the 51stFW at Osan alternate between hosting ROKAF units and deploying their own aircraft to other Korean bases (Buddy Wing 15-2 saw elements of the 8th deploy to Daegu for training with Korea’s F-15K SLAM Eagles), with around 8 such exercises being conducted each year between the two units. 15-4 saw the 123rd TFS from the 20th FW at Seosan send a detachment of their F-16Cs to Kunsan to conduct operations with the 35th FS of the 8th FW.
The training during these week-long exercises focusses on all aspects of operations, from the crew chiefs and maintenance and support crews to the joint planning and execution of any of the different mission profiles that the units may be tasked to carry out in combat; Air-to-air, air-to-ground, SEAD etc. and gives personnel exposure to the complexities involved in combined operations of forces from different countries (the language barrier is a significant, additional difficulty in this case also) as well as the sharing of knowledge as each may have a different approach or method of dealing with common issues.
Above all, these exercises are critical in allowing both Air Forces to maintain the highest state of readiness and ensure that they would be able to mount combined operations almost instantly should they ever be called into action.