Boletice, Czech Republic -- Nearly 500 soldiers and airmen from 5 NATO countries are standing side by side in the Czech Republic at the opening ceremony of Tobruq Legacy 15, an air defense exercise that runs from June 25 to July 3.
Tobruq Legacy 15 is an air defense airspace surveillance and live fire exercise designed to increase interoperability among the participating NATO partner countries of Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, the U.S. and the Czech Republic.
The U.S. Army Europe based 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command sent a contingent of Soldiers to conduct Ground Based Air Defense operations along with a Sentinel radar platoon from the Ohio National Guard's 174th Air Defense Brigade.
During the ceremony, Deputy Commander of the Czech Air Force Brigadier General Jaromir Sebesta welcomed the international soldiers and airmen and expressed the importance of such training.
"It is the first time in history we put our national air defense assets together and exercise live firing tasks based on common command and control. And this is not a test, it is a real declaration of integrated air defense," Sebesta said.
The U.S. Soldiers are providing for the first time a shared air picture of potential threats to four other countries' weapon systems to create an enhanced view that cooperation like this allows.
The planning for this exercise began over a year ago on the heels of the successful air surveillance interoperability exercise, Master Harmony. Only the Czech Republic and Slovakia participated in Master Harmony but it paved the way for more nations to participate in Tobruq Legacy 15.
"We're honored to be here to participate in Tobruq Legacy 2015, which will help us to continue our Multi-National Ground-Based Air Defense partnership, allowing us to continue our interoperability testing and to strengthen the NATO alliance. We also are glad to be back in the Czech Republic as they are good friends, great partners and wonderful hosts," said Lt. Col. William Cater, Officer in Charge of the U.S. contingent.
During the exercise the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Lithuania will conduct day and night missile defense live firing utilizing the U.S. teams' SENTINEL radar to queue their weapons systems over a shared communications link.