On June 16, 2023, the Austrian Armed Forces conducted a joint exercise with the US Air Force's Vermont Air National Guard. Guests of honor included United States Ambassador to Austria Victoria Reggie Kennedy and Commander of the Vermont Air National Guard Brigadier General Henry Harder. This partnership marks the first time that the Vermont Air National Guard's 158th Fighter Wing will fly jointly with the Zeltweg Air Force.
Essential contents of the "State Partnership Program" enable both partners to exchange skills, experience and know-how. The Vermont Air National Guard, which previously took part in the "Air Defender 23" exercise, is taking the opportunity to practice with the Austrian air force for the first time and to exchange experiences.
The aim of the program is to learn from each other and improve our common skills. In her speech, Secretary of Defense Tanner said, be it in exercises or joint operations, such as in the context of various missions abroad. The Vermont Air National Guard has operated the F-16 Fighting Falcon as its standard fighter for decades. The F-35 "Lightning II" is the successor. This aircraft is also procured by the Swiss Air Force, is already in service in Italy and Germany has also opted for this type. Thus, the experiences that are now flown in joint exercises are a valuable gain and demonstrate the added value and importance of the "State Partnership Program".
"Especially in cross-border cooperation and cooperation with our neighbors who are already using the F-35 or are receiving this aircraft, the opportunity to practice with this aircraft in advance is an invaluable asset for our air force," Defense Minister Tanner concluded.
The 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air National Guard has sent two F-35 "Lightning II" and a C-17 "Globemaster III" to Zeltweg. On Saturday, June 17, 2023, one flight is planned in the morning and one in the afternoon with up to four aircraft. The fly-out and relocation will take place on Monday.
The United States Ambassador to Austria Victoria Reggie Kennedy thanked Federal Minister Klaudia Tanner for the very active cooperation between the Federal Army and the Vermont National Guard and pointed out the special importance of this cooperation.