Author Archives: sln

#04 of 2016

The last issue of FLYMAG in 2016 contains articles from Turkish Army Aviation Command, Super Base Ørland, Luftstridsskolan in Malmen and more!

#03 of 2016

We look into the Polish exercise Anakonda ’16, as well as we take a closer look at the F-16 of the Royal Danish Air Force in this 3rd issue of FLYMAG in 2016.

NATO Air Policing – Baltikum

Baltic Air Policing


At bevare integriteten i luftrummet, har altid været et vigtigt mål inden for NATO alliancen.
FLYMAG tager her et kig ind på NATOs mission omkring overvågning og styring af luftrummet.
AF: SØREN NIELSEN
NATO Air Policing
At bevare integriteten i luftrummet, har altid været et vigtigt mål inden for NATO alliancen. Det er blevet udført som en kollektiv opgave, i fællesskab og kollektivt ved hjælp kampfly, en mission der er blevet navngivet “Air Policing”. Air Policing er en ren defensiv mission.

Siden 1970’erne har NATO etableret et omfattende system af luft overvågning og styring af luftrummet, samt Quick Reaction Alert midler i form af fighter jets, til at dække alle medlemslande i alliancen, også selvom de ikke selv har et luftforsvar.

Ved hjælp af radar, kontrol og rapportering centre, og Combined Air Operation Centre (CAOCs) sikrer alliancen, konstant overvågning og kontrol med lande i alliancens tildelte luftrum, 24 timer i døgnet, 365 dage om året.

NATO udnytter disse faciliteter til at reagere inden for sekunder ved lufttrafikhændelser, og krænkelser i de allieredes luftrum. Denne struktur af våbensystemer, kontrolcentre og procedurer omtales som NATO Integrated Air Defence System (NATINADS).
Up close, and personal. En italiensk Eurofighter under en tango QRA mission.

En norsk F-16 breaker væk, afsted på endnu en QRA mission.
Hjørnesten i alliancen
NATINADS har været, og er stadig en hjørnesten i alliancens solidaritet og samhørighed. De ansvarlige Allied Air Headquarters, som står for dette, er baseret i Izmir, Tyrkiet og Ramstein, Tyskland og deler Europa i to, et område syd for, og et nord for Alperne.

Allied Air Command Ramstein luft ansvarsområde er delt i to Air Policing Areas (APA):
  • APA 1 styres af den kombinerede Air Operation Centre (CAOC) Finderup, Danmark.
  • APA 2 styres af CAOC i Uedem, Tyskland.

NATO-medlemmer uden egen Air Policing aktiver bistås af andre NATO-medlemmer. Luxembourg er dækket af fightere fra Belgien, mens Slovenien og Albanien er omfattet af italienske og græske fly.

Starten på Baltic Air Policing
Siden marts 2004, hvor de baltiske lande blev medlem af NATO, har opgaven med at forsvare luftrummet over de baltiske lande været blevet gennemført på en fire-måneders rotation fra Lithuanian Air Force Air Base, nær den nordlige by Šiauliai. Normalt består en sådan udstationering af fire kampfly med mellem 50 og 110 support crew, og piloter.

For at sikre at udførelsen af Air Policing udføres på en sikker og professionel måde, var og er tilstrækkelig uddannelse stadig påkrævet, når NATO-nationer udstationerer deres aktiver på skift til Šiauliai Air Base, Litauen.

For at standardisere uddannelse på tværs af nationer, indførte Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein en række uddannelsestiltag kaldet Baltic Region Training Events (BRTE), for at drage nytte af erfarne flybesætninger udsendt til Šiauliai og tilbyde overlegen uddannelse for estiske, lettiske og litauiske luftstyrker og kontrol faciliteter.

Baltikum
De tre værtsnationer bidrager med 3,5 mio € om året, til dækning af udgifter. I 2012 afsatte alliancen 7 mio € til modernisering af Šiauliai flybasen fra Security Investment Programme.

Det er et krav at de nationer der er på vagt, har mindst 2 armerede fly, på hvad der hedder Readiness State 15, RS-15, hvilket betyder at de skal kunne være i luften på under 15 minutter fra alarmen går. Et normalt deployment består af mellem 50 og 110 personer, hvor man normalt har 7-8 piloter iblandt disse.

Dette crew går dog på skift i den 4 måneders lange udstationering, således at det ikke er de samme 50-110 mand der er udstationeret under hele perioden.

Målet for de deltagende lande, er at flyve så meget som muligt, hvor Norge som eksempel, havde som mål at flyve 400 timer på de 4 måneder de var udstationeret sidst på Šiauliai.

Dette er ikke meget forskelligt fra hvad de gør når de er hjemme i Norge, og NATO betaler ikke andet end blot det brændstof de bruger i QRA regi.
To norske F-16 med live våben, patruljerer over Šiauliai i Litauen.

“Amerikanerne øgede sin NATO-tilstedeværelse, for at øge styrken af Baltic Air Policing.
En koncentreret norsk pilot, er fokuseret på QRA missionen over baltikum.
Oprustningen
I 2013 blev Baltic Air Policing deployment kaldt ind, da det svenske flyvevåben ikke var i stand til at reagere på et simuleret angreb fra russiske bombefly mod Stockholm.

Under Krim-krisen i marts 2014, udstationerede US Air Force yderligere seks F-15C Eagle fightere fra RAF Lakenheath luftbasen i det østlige England til Lithuanian Air Force Air Base nær Šiauliai.

Disse flys tilstedeværelse, forøgede den foreliggende opgave, der allerede omfattede fire amerikanske F 15C-Eagle fly. Amerikanerne øgede sin NATO-tilstedeværelse, for at øge styrken af Baltic Air Policing missionen. I maj 2014 udvidede NATO Air Policing over baltikum med endnuluftbase. Denne gang i Estland, med flybasen Ämari nær Tallinn. RDAF var de første der blev udsendt til Estland.

Foruden dette, blev det polske luftvåbens QRA enhed på Malbork Air Base, også forstærket af den franske luftvåben, ligeledes i maj 2014, både med Mirage 2000C, og Rafale fightere, som alle, inkl. den polske QRA enhed, indgik i Baltic Air Policing missionen.

Med etableringen af Air Policing basen i Estland, udvidede man også antallet af nationer på Šiauliai, fra at have en nation, til to nationer, hvor begge nationer var til stede med hver 4 fly.

Fra omkring april 2014, og frem til 1. september 2015, var der konstant udstationeret NATO nationer, med 4 fly hver, samt ground-crew og piloter, på Malbork i Polen, Ämari i Estland, samt 2 nationer på Šiauliai i Litauen.

Nedskaleringen
NATO valgte pr. 1 september at nedskalere dette fra at have 16 fly parat 24/7, til 8, henholdsvis fire på Ämari i Estland, og fire på Šiauliai i Litauen. Valget om at skære Baltic Air Policing ned med 50 procent, er ret kontroversiel, og er sandsynligvis grundet omkostningsbesparelse, da det russiske militæres luft aktivitet i regionen forbliver på det højeste det har været inden for dette årti.

Polen bevarer dog en af sine egne MiG-29 Fulcrum air defence fighter enheder på Malbork, som tildels er til rådighed som back-up for Baltic Air Policing, da NATO-medlemmerne Estland, Letland og Litauen har ikke nogle jagerfly af deres egne.

Mange NATO lande har bidraget med fly og personel igennem de 11 år, hvor Baltic Air Policing har eksisteret, hvor lande som Belgien, Danmark, England, Norge, Tyrkiet, Rumænien, Canada, USA, Spanien, Polen, Frankrig, Portugal, Tyskland, Tjekkiet, Holland, Italien alle har deltaget, og nu senest Ungarn.

Dette er første gang Ungarn tager Baltic Air Policing rollen. Ungarn, og deres JAS 39 Gripen, overtog rollen fra de norske F-16ere, og de italienske Typhoons på Šiauliai. Italien havde som den første, og måske eneste nation, gennemført 2 hold i træk, hvilket førte til en 6 måneders udstationering af deres Typhoons på Šiauliai. En stor bedrift, og dedikation til NATO af Italien.

Udstationeringen i Litauen kan måske lægge et ekstra pres på det ungarske luftvåben, som har haft to JAS 39 Gripen crash på det sidste, som mest sandsynligt har været på grund af enten forkert vedligeholdelse, eller pilotfejl. Taget dette i mente, og nedskaleringen fra to nationer på Šiauliai, til en, og ingen nationer på Malbork, vil uden tvivl lægge et ekstra pres på skuldrene af det ungarske luftvåben.

Nogle vil være bekymrede, for hvad der virker som en mærkelig beslutning fra NATO, med at nedskalere sin tilstedeværelse på et tidspunkt, hvor Rusland har optrappet sin flåde og luftvåben tilstedeværelse i Baltikum over de sidste par år.
To italienske Eurofightere, og to norske F-16 flyver i tæt formation over Šiauliai basen.

Rutinemæssige QRA missioner
Mens NATO-jetfly rutinemæssigt foretager QRA missioner, for at afværge enhver potentiel indtrængning i de allieredes luftrum, har alliancen oplevet en støt stigning i russiske militærflys aktivitet siden 2012.

I de første 3 måneder af 2015 har NATO observeret en moderat stigning i russiske militære flyvninger, til sammenligning med samme periode i 2014.

I 2014 interceptede de allierede fly, russiske fly over 400 gange, 50 procent oftere end i 2013. Over 150 af disse interceptions blev udført af fly fra NATOs Baltic Air Policing mission. Et tal som helt sikkert vil være noget nær det samme, eller måske endda højere for 2015, hvilket i første omgang, er langt højere end de 30-50 interceptions man havde i de første mange år af Baltic Air Policing.

Den stærke alliance
“NATO er en stærk alliance, som fortsat er forpligtet til et kollektivt forsvar og vil fortsætte med at udføre fredstids missionen Air Policing.” siger brigadegeneral Kevin A. Huyck, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations på HQ AIRCOM.

“Baltic Air Policing missionen analyseres løbende og omstruktureres til at forblive klar. Når jeg ser på disse state-of-the-art supersoniske fighter jets, og de professionelle og erfarne flybesætninger, har jeg mere end tillid til at NATO Air Policings kapaciteter kan klare opgaven.”

Da den nye Baltic Air Policing struktur blev annonceret, var NATO embedsmænd ivrige for at understrege, at de ikke ser det som en reduktion, men snarere en rationalisering af missionen for balancere antallet af NATO fighter jets, der er nødvendige for at holde truslen fra Rusland for døren:

“Alliancen tager sit ansvar for at garantere sikkerheden for de allieredes luftrum meget alvorligt – når et fly flyver tæt på eller flyver ind i et NATO-medlemmernes luftrum uden forudgående koordination eller planlægning, kan både den kommercielle og militære lufttrafik komme i fare. NATO jetfly identificerer, opfanger, og eskorterer rutinemæssigt sådanne fly som en beskyttelsesforanstaltning.

Ændringer i Baltic Air Policing Mission kapaciteten, udgør ikke en ændring i effektiviteten af denne mission. Alliancen har en passende og tilstrækkelig kapacitet til at sikre en fælles standard for sikkerhed inden for alle de allieredes luftrum.”

To norske F-16 på patrulje over baltikum, på endnu en NATO QRA mission.
 
“Ændringer i Baltic Air Policing Mission kapaciteten, udgør ikke en ændring i effektiviteten af denne mission.”
To italienske Eurofightere, og to norske F-16 flyver i tæt formation.

Fremtiden
Fra 1. september 2015 består Baltic Air Policing således af fire JAS 39 fra Ungarn udstationeret på Šiauliai i Litauen, og fire Eurofighter Typhoons fra Tyskland, udstationeret på Ämari i Estland, med back-up fra det polske luftvåbens MiG-29 på Malbork.

Danmark har været udstationeret hele 5 gange i forbindelse med Baltic Air Policing, hvor vores F-16 har været i Litauen fire gange, og i Estland en enkelt gang.

En stor tak til NATO, og i særdeleshed, Norwegian Air Force, Italian Air Force, samt Capt. Ieva Gulbinienė Public Affairs Officer Lithuanian Air Force for muliggørelse af denne artikel.

Anatolian Eagle – 2015

Anatolian Eagle 2015


Anatolian Eagle kan sammenlignes med Red Flag – et simuleret krigsmiljø, som løbende stiger i sværhed ved hjælp af den normale
byggesten tilgang, hvor kompleksiteten af hver mission vokser i løbet af de to uger, som træningsperioden varer.
AF: SØREN NIELSEN
Anatolian Eagle
Store multinationale luft øvelser, hvor kombineret luftoperationer kan udføres mod strategiske, og taktiske mål, giver gode uddannelsesmuligheder for alle deltagere.

Men kravene til at være vært for sådan en type øvelse er så store, at der kun er tre træningscentre i verden, hvor de kan finde sted. Af disse er kun et placeret uden for Nordamerika, hvilket er Anatolske Eagle Training Centre (AETC) i Tyrkiet.

Den årlige internationale øvelse, Anatolian Eagle, afholdt på Turkish Air Force 3. Main Jet Base, Konya Air Base, fandt sted i midten af juni. Med de fortsatte kampe mod ISIS i Syrien og Irak, konflikten i Yemen mellem shiamuslimske Houthi oprørere og pro-regeringsstyrker sammen med den konstante uro i Libyen så tæt på Tyrkiets dørtrin, er behovet for at uddanne og samarbejde med NATO og dets mellemøstlige allierede vigtigere end det nogensinde tidligere har været.

Den første Anatolian Eagle øvelse blev afholdt i 2001, efter at behovet for at Tyrkiet fik egne uddannelsesfaciliteter, via modernisering af det tyrkiske luftvåbens fighter flåde, opstod. Efter konflikterne i Bosnien og Kosovo, fik det tyrkiske luftvåben erfaring, og nåede et sådant niveau, at de kunne være vært for deres egne øvelser og tilbyde uddannelse til andre allierede luftstyrker.

Red Flag er inspirationen og grundlaget for Anatolian Eagle øvelserne, og det er derfor ikke underligt at faciliteterne på basen, som f.eks. spisesal og operations bygningerne, er på samme niveau som dem ved Red Flag eller Maple Flag øvelser.

Anatolian Eagle afholdes to til fire gange om året, hvoraf de første er klassificeret som nationale øvelser, mens det tyrkiske luftvåben inviterer allierede kræfter med til en af øvelserne, for at give dem mulighed for at slutte sig til øvelsen på Konya Air Base.

En F-15C fra 493th Fighter Squadron baseret på RAF Lakenheath taxier ud til start,
mens han wingman allerede på vej i luften.
 
En F4-E udstyret med det AGM-142 Popeye missil under take-off til endnu
en mission under Anatolian Eagle 2015.


Den europæiske Red Flag
Anatolian Eagle kan sammenlignes med Red Flag – et simuleret krigsmiljø, som løbende stiger i sværhed ved hjælp af den normale byggesten tilgang, hvor kompleksiteten af hver mission vokser i løbet af de to uger, som træningsperioden varer.

Dette giver flybesætninger den bedste uddannelse, og den bedste mulighed for at forberede dem på de virkelige konflikter, som er at finde ude i verden. Scenarierne har både blå og røde forces, som kæmper imod hinanden.

Det tyrkiske luftvåben beskriver selv her formålet med øvelsen:
  • At træne fightere i at vinde.
  • Til systematisk at teste og evaluere status på fighterens kampberedskab, samt styre det taktiske trænings fremskridt.
  • At opbygge et vidensgrundlag, for at forske i forbedring af taktiske luftkampe.
  • For at gøre opbygge erfaring, til at få fighter elementer hos det tyrkiske luftvåben til at nå de militære mål på kortest tid, og med et minimum af ressourcer og kræfter.
  • Udarbejde definitionen af operationelle krav, forsynings-, forsknings- og udviklingsaktiviteter.
  • Oprette et uddannelsesmiljø, som tilfredsstiller kravene fra det tyrkiske luftvåben.
  • For at understøtte test af eksisterende, under udvikling, samt fremtidige våbensystemer.

Realistiske træningsområder
Deltagerne ved Anatolian Eagle har adgang til et træningsområde inden for 300 km, hvor området er beliggende mellem Konya og Ankara, hvilket holder transittiden til et minimum. Inden for dette træningsområde er der tre luft-til-jord ranges, henholdsvis Tersakan, Koc og Karapmar, som alle indeholder jord-til-luft trusler fra SA-6, SA- 8, SA-11 og ZSU 23-4 systemer, som leverer et realistisk miljø for øvelses scenarierne.

Konya Air Base har alle de faciliteter, du ville forvente af et verdensklasse træningsanlæg, men måske er dets bedste funktion den geografiske placering af Konya Air Base, som giver uovertruffen godt vejr, og dermed den bedste mulighed for så få aflyste missioner, som muligt.

Under missionerne sendes al flight information tilbage til command and controlcenter via ACMI (Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation) i realtid. NATO E-3A AWACS, samt det tyrkiske luftvåbens Boeing 737 AEW&C Peace Eagle giver dataforbindelser til andre fly, således at de kan give oplysninger tilbage på mål, placering af venlige, og fjendtlige styrker i området og til at give taktisk information til at besejre de fjendtlige styrker, som så bliver delt til de allieredes fly.

Efter endt missionen, bliver flybesætninger fra både blå og røde forces, debriefed i det store briefing lokale, for at samle erfaringer, og for at forbedre deres færdigheder.


Tre F-16 fra Pakistan Air Force holder klar til at det bliver deres tur til at starte,
mens den fjerde har fået lov til at taxi ud på banen til take-off.
“Under missionerne sendes al flight information tilbage til command and controlcenter.”
Vejen mellem øst og vest
Tyrkiet, der ofte omtales som vejen mellem øst og vest, er let tilgængelige for luftstyrker fra både Europa og Mellemøsten. Luftvåben, som måske ikke normalt er i stand til at træne sammen, får her chancen for at gøre det.

Udenlandsk deltagelse til Anatolian Eagle 15-2 inkluderede Boeing E-3A AWACS fra NATO Airborne Early Warning Force (NAEWF), som er hjemmehørende i Geilenkirchen, Tyskland, men som til dagligt bruger Konya Air Base, som en forward deployment base.

Med de fleste deltagere kommende fra de sydlige NATO-lande og i Mellemøsten, har Anatolian Eagle altid garanteret at tiltrække de vigtigste luftvåben fra de omkringliggende lande. Med den seneste konflikt i Yemen mellem shiamuslimske Houthi oprørere og pro-regeringsstyrker, har den Saudi ledede koalition den seneste tid været involveret i luftangreb mod oprørerne.

Koalitionen består af de Forenede Arabiske Emirater, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Marokko, Sudan, Egypten og Pakistan, hvor det kun var det pakistanske luftvåben der var i stand til at deltage i denne Anatolian Eagle øvelse.

Det pakistanske luftvåben deltog med fire F-16BMs og to F-16As fra 9. Squadron (Griffins) baseret på Mushaf Air Base. Logistikken blev leveret af tre C-130Es fra 6 Squadron (Entelopes), som er baseret på Nur Khan – Islamabad International Lufthavn.

Royal Air Force medbragte seks Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s, som havde sammensat et team på 20 piloter fra 11. Squadron baseret på RAF Coningsby sammen med omkring 150 ground supportcrew, herunder ingeniører og kommunikation specialister.

US Air Force medbragte tolv McDonnell Douglas F-15Cs fra 493th Fighter Squadron baseret på RAF Lakenheath, og hvor den sidste udenlandske deltager, kom fra det spanske luftvåben, der deltog med seks McDonnell Douglas EF-18A (M) Hornets fra ALA15 baseret på Zaragoza.


“Turkish Air Force stillede med over 45
F-16 fly
til øvelsen.”
En C-130 fra Pakistan Air Force ankommer på øvelsens sidste dag, for at hente personel
og udstyr, inden turen går tilbage til Pakistan for de seks F-16 som Pakistan Air Force havde med til øvelsen.
En EF-18A fra det spanske luftvåben under take-off.

Türk Hava Kuvvetleri – THvK
Hjemmeholdet, det tyrkiske luftvåben (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri – THvK), deltog blandt andet med følgende frontline fighter enheder:
  • 132 Filo “Dagger (Hançer)”
  • 141 Filo “Kurt (Wolf)”
  • 143 Filo “Öncel”
  • 151 Filo “Bronze (Tunc)”
  • 152 Filo “Raider (Akinci)”
  • 161 Filo “Bat (Yarasa)”
  • 162 Filo “Harpun (Zipkin)”
  • 182 Filo “Hawk (Atmaca)”
  • 191 Filo “Cobra (Kobra)“
  • 192 Filo” Tiger (Kaplan)“

Alle opererer forskellige versioner af Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon. Turkish Air Force stillede med over 45 F-16 fly til øvelsen. De mange tyrkiske F-16 blev trukket fra hele deres store flåde af Block 30, 40, 50 og 50 + fly fra en række forskellige eskadriller.

De mest bemærkelsesværdige, var de F-16 Block 50+ fly udstyret med konforme brændstoftanke (CFT), og to sædet D version, som har den store firkantede “rygsøjle”.

Det er de nyeste tilføjelser til Turkish Air Force, som er blevet produceret lokalt i Tyrkiet, af Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) under Peace Onyx IV aftalen, hvor den sidste blev leveret i 2012.

Turkish Air Force stillede også med McDonnell Douglas F-4E 2020 Terminators fløjet af besætninger fra:
  • 111 Filo “Panther (Panter)”
  • 171 Filo “Pirates (Korsan)”

Det billige alternativ
De opgraderede F-4E 2020 er i stand til at bruge en lange række moderne våben, herunder laserguidede bomber, og AGM-65 Maverick missiler. Det er stadig en formidabel platform trods den er betydeligt mindre adræt, end mere moderne typer, hvor tilføjelsen af Rafaels Litening III avancerede målsøgnings pod også øger dens effektivitet. Under øvelsen var et par F4-Es udstyret med AGM-142 Popeye missil.

Der blev fløjet to missioner hver dag (Eagle 1 og 2) under øvelsen, med en morgen mission og en eftermiddag mission, hver med op til 60 fly. Under missionerne, gav det tyrkiske luftvåben støtte ved hjælp af air tankning, via deres KC- 135 lufttankere, og taktisk transport med C-130 Hercules og CASA 235s.

Den hjemlige SAR enhed fra Konya Air Base, 135 Filo, med sine Eurocopter AS532UL Cougar helikoptere deltog ikke aktivt i øvelsen, men forblev på CSAR standby i hele perioden, hvis noget skulle gå galt under missionerne.

Værdien af øvelser som Anatolian Eagle kan ikke overvurderes. Tyrkiets beliggenhed, på grænsen mellem Europa og Asien, gør det let tilgængeligt for deltagere fra begge kontinenter at deltage.

Med fremragende faciliteter som dem, der tilbydes af Red Flag i USA eller Maple Flagi Canada, med deres sofistikerede trusselbaserede scenarier, og med svindende forsvarsbudgetter i disse tider, er det let at se, hvordan Tyrkiet og deres Anatolian Eagle øvelse kan være et attraktiv alternativ for nationer, der ønsker fremragende uddannelse i luftkamp, til en brøkdel af de omkostninger det koster at sende deres enheder til Nordamerika.
“Værdien af øvelser som Anatolian Eagle
kan ikke overvurderes.
En ikke helt normal F-16 som vi kender den. Denne F-16D Block 50+ fra det tyrkiske luftvåben (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri – THvK), har både den store firkantede “rygsøjle”, og konforme brændstoftanke (CFT).

Northern Edge – 2015

Northern Edge 2015 – a large-scale exercise


Northern Edge can trace its roots back to 1975, with exercise Jack Frost (1975-1979), then Brim Frost (1981-1989),
Arctic Warrior (1991-1992). The first Northern Edge exercise was held in 1993.
BY: SØREN NIELSEN
Northern Edge 2015
Large-scale exercises and the opportunity to test experimental equipment between different branches of the US armed forces, including the US Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force, is a rare opportunity these days.

In June 2015, the Alaskan Command gave around 6000 troops from all these branches just such an opportunity during exercise Northern Edge 2015 (NE15). In Alaska, the participants had to train interservice cooperation between all the different branches, as well as working with units from bases outside Alaska.

Even though it was an “air-centred” exercise, four US Navy ships as well as troops and ground vehicles joined close to 200 aircraft during the two week long exercise during June of 2015. The host, Alaskan Command, described this as:

“Alaska’s leading joined training exercise, designed to train operations, techniques and procedures, and to increase the interoperability between the service branches.”

An F-15C during takeoff from JBER.
This “ZZ”-bird is usually based at Kadena AFB in Japan.
“Even though it was an “air-centred” exercise, four US Navy ships as well as troops and ground vehicles joined close to 200 aircraft.”
Roots dating back to 1975
Northern Edge can trace its roots back to 1975, with exercise Jack Frost (1975-1979), then Brim Frost (1981-1989), Arctic Warrior (1991-1992). The first Northern Edge exercise was held in 1993.

Alaskan Command is unique in the sense that it is made up of units from many different branches, who together defends America’s “Last frontier”. Even though they report directly to the US Northern Command, Alaskan Command units routinely work with the geographically close US Pacific Command units.

While foreign units routinely participate in the smaller, compared to Northern Edge, Red Flag Alaska exercise, Northern Edge is only for American units and troops.

Usually Northern Edge takes place every other year, but it was cancelled in 2013 due to the sequestration, which put a stop to all non-essential exercise due to the financial crises facing the USA at the time. This meant a four year gap before the next NE was held in 2015.

Ground breaking technology changes fast, and NE is a prime opportunity to test and validate current and future hardware and software, in a “close-to-reality” combat environment. More than a dozen high-end experiments and simulations were planned during NE15, including a complete failure of the GPS system, and a major software test on the F-16.

The 49th state
Large scale radar/anti-radar and electronic countermeasures training can be conducted at the vast Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC) where NE15 took place.

It is not necessary to be in the 49th state in order to participate in NE15. One Alaskan Command press release stated: “NE15 is the largest military exercise planned in Alaska this year, with real and virtual participants from all over the USA, practicing together with real players”.

Planning for the exercise began one year before the exercise took place. Identifying different goals and experiments were done early, and participants committed themselves to the exercise soon after. Not all participants were military organisations. A number of civilian contractors were present to test, validate or showcase their military hardware.


HUGE AREAS – WITH MORE THAN JUST AIRCRAFT
To cover all scenarios, and give the participants the opportunity to achieve their goals, a couple of large training areas in Alaska were used.

The entire JPARC airspace covers around 157.000 square kilometres over land in the southern and central part of Alaska, as well as a separate area of about 130.000 square kilometres over the Gulf Of Alaska (GOA) were used during NE15. Adding to this, a special corridor between the two airspaces were set up by the FAA, so the participating aircraft could travel from one airspace to the other, without getting into conflict with civilian traffic.

The participation of US Navy submarines attracted the attention of US Navy’s fixed wing patrol aircraft as well as helicopters launched from three destroyers.

A Temporary Maritime Activities Area (TMAA) was set up off the coast of Alaska. Inside the TMAA, assets hunting for the participating submarines could drop sonar buoys.

A lot of residents in Alaska depend on the ocean, not only to make a living, but also as part of their cultural heritage.
When flying in the newest and most advanced fighter in the USAF inventory,
then you have to look cool, even when you have the visor up.

“The Alaskan Command is proud of its environmental conservation, and will go to great lengths to minimise the damage to the environment.
Several units had made the trip from Japan to Alaska.
Here are two F-15C from Kadena AFB, Japan, before it was their turn to get some jet fuel.
PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
This factor meant that the Navy worked very hard to communicate how the exercise would impact the environment of Alaska as little as possible. Almost 1200 sonar buoys were dropped, all of which emit acoustic noise, which could impact the environment.
Here are some snippets from the Alaskan Command press release regarding the protection of the environment:

“Environmental protection is an integrated part of the exercise.

… The Alaskan Command is proud of its environmental conservation, and will go to great lengths to minimise the damage to the environment.

… Previous Northern Edge exercises were analysed in US Navy 2011 Gulf of Alaska Final Impact Statement (EIS).

… TMAA was designed to avoid critical habitats, and even though it is not possible to avoid all fish or marine habitats, activities are rare and spread out over the entire TMAA. US Navy’s training activities follows an extensive set of rules and regulations, meant to minimise the potential risk for marine life. US Navy has conducted Northern Edge and other large exercises in the Gulf of Alaska for many years without significant damage to the environment.

For future exercises, starting from 2016, the US Navy is currently working on a supplement to the original 2011 EIS, and seeks a renewal of the permissions from the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act.”


The US Army and US Air Force have recently updated their EIS for the JPARC.

Joint Base Elemndorf-Richardson
The two large US Air Force bases Eielson AFB and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson were used during the exercise, and supported the flying assets during NE15.

Several US Army bases were also used during the exercise, including Fort Greely and Fort Wainwright, which was used for a large paradrop using C-17s. A Tactical Air Operations Centre (TAOC) was set up at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), close to the town of Anchorage.

JBER is geographically located closer to the Gulf of Alaska than Eielson AFB, which is located 600 km to the north, close to the town of Fairbanks. Most for the US Navy flying assets were therefore base at JBER. Usually most of the tactical flying assets are based at Eielson AFB during large-scale exercises, as it shortens the flight time between the base and the airspace over JPARC. During NE15, the flying operations were split between the TMAA area over the Gulf of Alaska and the over-land area of JPARC.
It was all branches of the armed services, who participated in Northern Edge 2015 exercise. Here’s a USMC KC-130J for example.

Two VFA-154 “Black Knights” from NAS Lemoore is waiting for their wingmen
to finish, so it’ll be their turn to get some additional jet fuel from the tanker.
US Navy
US Navy P-8 Poseidons and P-3 Orions operated from JBER, together with E-2D Hawkeyes while VX-9 Vampires were there with their F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler test aircraft. They were joined by a couple of active west coast Navy Hornet squadrons, as well as numerous F-15C and F-16C/D’s from the US Air Force test units at Eglin AFB, Nellis AFB and Edwards AFB.

Also at JBER was the Japan based F-15C from Kadena and the US Marine Corps VMGR-152 with their KC-130 from Iwakuni. All participating F-22 Raptors (one squadron from Langley AFB and two squadrons resident to JBER), and the E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft also operated out of JBER during NE15.

Besides all these military aircraft, a number of civilian aircraft also flew from JBER during the exercise. Among these were Hawker Hunter’s from ATAC and L-3/Flight Internationals Learjets acting as hostile aircraft and target towing. Larger civilian aircraft, like Northrop Grumman’s rare BAC-1-11 test bed also flew out of JBER.

Eielson AFB
Eielson AFB further north had more US aircraft from Japan stationed, including US Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornets from VMFA(AW)-242 from MCAS Iwakuni and US Air Force 13th Fighter Squadron F-16Cs from Misawa AFB. F-15E Strike Eagles from 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour-Johnson AFB and VMAQ-2 EA-6B Prowlers from MCAS Cherry Point also flew from Eielson AFB.

To accommodate the long mission, a local Tanker Task Force (TTF) were established and run from the base. This TTF had four KC-10’s and ten KC-135’s, which rotated between the different training sorties.

It was common for the TTF to have 7-9 tankers airborne for each sortie. US Air Force 18th Aggressor Squadron, who is based at Eielson, played the role as Red Air during the exercise.

Three large civilian aircraft, a Falcon, a Sabreliner and a Cessna Caravan, participating in the exercise also flew from the base. Their mission was to test new equipment.

In addition to all the aircrafts based in Alaska, a number of other aircrafts also participated in NE15, but flying directly from their home bases in the continental USA. B-2 Spirits from Whiteman AFB, RQ-4 and U-2 reconnaissance aircrafts from Beale AFB, B-52’s from Barksdale and B-1B’s from Dyess AFB, were all part of NE15 while flying from their home bases. Satellites and other space-based assets were also controlled from outside Alaska.

“TTF has four KC-10’s and ten KC-135’s.
A civil aggressor, in the form of a Hawker Hunter from ATAC, also participated in the exercise.
 
An AWACS E-3C Sentry from Kadena AFB taxis out for another mission.

The good and warm summer
Thanks to an uncharacteristic clear and warm weather, NE15 had fantastic flying conditions, which were far better than usual – at least for the first week of the exercise.

During the second week, some areas and bases were hit, more or less severe, by smoke from some of the many forest fires that hit Alaska over the summer.

During the summer of 2015, Alaska had around 250-300 simultaneous forest fires, which did affect the flying during the second week of the exercise.

NE15 took place around the summer solstice, which meant close to 20 hours of daylight each day, giving the exercise an extra dimension with that many daylight hours.

NE15 gave thousands of US military personnel valuable inter-service training. Groundbreaking technologies were tested, already validated technologies were improved and large groups of aircrafts worked together over the training areas in Alaska.

NE15 not only sharpened the edge of the US military, it also tested equipment that will be used in future military operations.

A big “Thank you” to Capt. Anastasia Wasem, Director, Public Affairs Alaskan Command, Capt. Tania Bryan, USAFR Director, Joint Information Bureau and Maj. Elizabeth Magnusson, USAFR for making this article possible.

Eskadrille 723 – Den martime eskadrille

Den martime eskadrille


Denne “Marine Flights” primære opgave var at deltage i overvågningen af de færøske og grønlandske farvande
fra inspektionsskibe i Nordatlanten. FLYMAG kigger nærmere på historien, og fremtiden i Eks. 723.
AF: SØREN NIELSEN
Søværnets Helikoptertjeneste
Bag navnet ‘Eskadrille 723’, finder man i dag, hvad der tidligere hed Søværnets Helikoptertjeneste. Søværnets Helikoptertjeneste blev først dannet som en “Flight” under Eskadrille 722, som også dengang havde Search And Rescue(SAR) rollen, da man modtog de første Alouette III-helikoptere i 1962.

Denne “Marine Flights” primære opgave var at deltage i overvågningen af de færøske og grønlandske farvande fra inspektionsskibe i Nordatlanten.

I 1977 blev flighten udskilt fra 722, og man oprettede den som en selvstændig myndighed under Søværnets Operative Kommando, med navnet Søværnets Flyvetjeneste. I 1980 begyndte Søværnets Flyvetjeneste udskiftningen af de otte Alouette-helikoptere til otte Westland Lynx Mk. 80-helikoptere. Senere blev to Mk. 90-helikoptere indkøbt, som erstatning for to havarerede Mk. 80.

Efter Forsvarsforliget i 2000 blev det besluttet at Søværnets Flyvetjeneste skulle udskilles fra Søværnet og overgå til Flyvevåbnet som en selvstændig eskadrille (Eskadrille 728) under operativ kommando af Flyvertaktisk Kommando (FTK). Samtidig skulle Hærens Flyvetjeneste (HFT) omdannes til Eskadrille 724, også under FTK.
På vej ind til landing på Flyvestation Karup, hjemsted for Helikopter Wing Karup,
som huser Eskadrille 723.

“Det blev derfor besluttet at Søværnets Flyvetjeneste skulle forblive i Søværnet, dog stadig på Karup, men nu undernavnet Søværnets Helikoptertjeneste.”
Lynx-helikopteren, her fra Esk. 723, er en meget manøvredygtig helikopter.
Eskadrille 723
Samtidig skulle eskadrillen flyttes fra Værløse til Karup. Den administrative overførsel af Søværnets helikoptere blev dog ikke til noget, da internationale forpligtelser, herunder nedrustningsaftaler ikke tillod Flyvevåbnet at være i besiddelse af så mange helikoptere; de otte Sikorsky S-61 Flyvevåbnet allerede havde, plus tretten AS 550 Fennec, og seksten H-500 Cayuse fra Hæren, samt de otte Lynx fra Søværnet.

Dette skyldtes at hvis helikopterne var en del af Flyvevåbnet, blev de betragtet som et våben, hvorimod hvis de var i søværnet, indgik de som en del af skibet. Det blev derfor besluttet at Søværnets Flyvetjeneste skulle forblive i Søværnet, dog stadig på Karup, men nu undernavnet Søværnets Helikoptertjeneste. Skiftet skete formelt d. 1. januar 2004.

Efter udfasningen af H-500 Cayuse helikopteren var det nu muligt at samle alle helikoptere i Flyvevåbenet, og som en del af Forsvarsforliget i 2009 blev det vedtaget at Søværnets Helikoptertjeneste, skulle overføres til Flyvevåbnet den 1. januar 2011 som Eskadrille 723.

Eskadrille 723 blev dermed den tredje eskadrille i Helicopter Wing Karup. De to andre er Eskadrille 722, som består af fjorten AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin-helikoptere, og Eskadrille 724, der består af otte AS 550 Fennec-helikopterne fra HFT. Samtidigt blev Flyveskolen, der udvælger piloter til Flyvevåbnet, også underlagt Helicopter Wing Karup.

At gå fra Søværnets Helikoptertjeneste til Eskadrille 723 har ikke betydet en kæmpe omvæltning, da eskadrillen altid har været baseret på flyvestationer, og det er mest på det administrative plan, der har været omvæltninger. F.eks. er eskadrillen ikke længere selvstændig myndighed, men underlagt Helicopter Wing Karup som de andre eskadriller. I praksis for personalet er opgaverne de samme.

Opgaverne
Man kan opdele Eskadrille 723’s opgaver i to overordnede områder; Nationale og Internationale opgaver. De nationale opgaver dækker om blandt andet farvandsovervågning i Danmark, støtte til politiet, som f.eks. da ungdomshuset blev ryddet, var det en Lynx der satte politiet af på toppen af bygningen, men også støtte til Grønland og Færøerne, som var det der startede hele den maritime helikoptertjeneste.

Fokusområderne har rykket sig over tiden, og i dag varetager eskadrillen færre opgaver end tidligere, men beredskabet er der stadig. En del af de civile opgaver er i dag blevet overtaget af civile helikoptere, som f.eks. transport af forsyninger til ødeområder, da civile helikoptere er blevet mere og mere udbredt, og det er ikke forsvarets opgave at konkurrere på noget, der er et civilt problem. Eskadrillen er stadig til stede, og bistår i nødstilfælde, og har samtidig fået andre opgaver, og er der mere som en udrykningstjeneste.

Eskadrille 723 har en Lynx-helikopter på både Grønland og Færøerne, 365 dage om året, enten ombord på et skib, eller på fastlandet. Støtten til Grønland og Færøerne, samt tilstedeværelsen i Nordatlanten består af mange forskellige opgaver, herunder; Search And Rescue, fiskeriinspektion, assistance til søværnets operationer, udlægning af depoter til sirius-patruljen, støtte til lokalsamfundet, samt suverænitetshåndhævelse.

Eskadrillens nok mest kendte internationale opgave er de syv år de har været ved Afrikas horn, i jagten på pirater. En opgave, som dog teoretisk ikke er ny for 723, hvor det før var det tidligere Sovjetunionen, man øvede sig i at bekæmpe, og overvåge. Denne opgave er nu flyttet uden for de danske grænser, og til internationalt farvand øst for Afrika.

En international opgave der startede tilbage i 2008, hvor Danmark sendte det første skib, med tilhørende Lynx-helikopter, fra Eskadrille 723 ned til varmere farvande. Her havde de til opgave at patruljere et havområde på størrelse med hele Europa. Det er ikke kun Danmark, som har taget denne kamp. Mange andre lande har deltaget, og der har gennemsnitligt siden 2008 været omkring 20-25 krigsskibe i området.
Lynx-helikopteren hvor den bruger meget af dens tid, over vandet.

“Ofte får blot lyden og synet af en helikopter
med et tungt maskingevær mange pirater
til at give op.”
Normalt er Lynx-helikopteren ikke bevæbnet, men den kan
udstyres med et tungt maskingevær.
Piratjagten
Hvis man skal forsøge at forstå omfanget af en patruljering, så tænk på at have 20-25 knallerter, som kører rundt i hele Europa. Det er ca. hastigheden for disse skibe, og hvert skib har dermed et kæmpe område de skal sikre. Det er her, hvor det er fantastisk at have en helikopter om bord, da det giver meget mere fleksibilitet, og nedsætter reaktionstiden.

Lynx-helikopteren har dog stadig en begrænset rækkevidde, og på grund af varmen er rækkevidden endnu mindre dernede for de danske Lynx-helikoptere, da de ikke kan have så meget brændstof med.

Helikopteren har til opgave at identificere mulige piratbåde, og melde det tilbage til flådestyrken. Er det pirater, så skal man finde ud af hvad man skal gøre. Er det et angreb der er på vej, så er der visse “Rules of engagement”, der beskriver hvordan man har mulighed for at stoppe angreb, f.eks. ved hjælp af det tunge maskingevær, som Lynx-helikopteren har monteret netop til dette formål.

Disse “Rules of engagement” er en lang række regler der skal være opfyldt, før besætningen må åbne ild. Og det er ikke dødelig ild, der åbnes, men advarselsskud, eventuelt opfulgt af skud på skibets bov. Ofte får blot lyden og synet af en helikopter med et tungt maskingevær mange pirater til at give op, og det er også blevet brugt mange gange, med stor succes.

Det har været helikopteren der har fundet omkring 90-95 procent af de pirater, der blev fundet i området, hvor det danske skib var, hvilket i sig selv siger, at det er en stor gevinst at have helikopteren med ombord.

Stratetisk ændring
De første par år blev der nærmest fundet pirater ved hver mission der blev fløjet, hvor helikopterens besætning fangede pirater på deres radar. Skibet planlagde så hvad der skulle gøres, når helikopteren havde fundet en piratbåd. Ofte blev det til en kombination af Lynx-helikopteren fra luften, og frømandskorpset fra vandet, som lavede et koordineret angreb for at fange piraterne.

I starten skete det ofte, at skibet blev kaldt ud til skibe, der allerede var under angreb. Her var det tit at det var for sent at komme dem til undsætning, da piraterne angriber i små hurtige både, og med et geografisk område på størrelse med Europa, var det ikke muligt at have et krigsskib i nærheden af hvert enkelt skib i området. Derfor ændrede man strategi, og fandt ud af hvor piraterne gik ud fra Somalias kyst, og så lå man mere eller mindre på lur, til at de kom ud med deres moderskibe.

Den danske indsats med skib og Lynx-helikopter har flere gange været med til at pågribe moderskibe, alt i alt en stor succes. I dag er opgaven mindre, da der næsten ingen pirater er tilbage i området. Det skyldes til dels den massive tilstedeværelse af militære fartøjer, bevæbning af handelsskibe i form af bevæbnede vagter, samt en stor indsats i landene for at få piraterne sat i arbejde, og få en dagligdag til at hænge sammen.

Det må betegnes som en opgave der er løst med stor succes, og opgaven med piratjagt er på retur.

Lynx-helikopteren
Danmark fik sin første Lynx-helikopter tilbage i 1980, og platformen er dermed mere end 30 år gammel. Dette gør ikke Lynx-helikopter til en dårlig helikopter; den betegnes som en lille og hurtig helikopter, som er helt fantastisk til opgaverne i Nordatlanten. Helikopteren blev designet som en skibshelikopter, med landinger på små skibe som speciale.

Helikopteren er utrolig stærk, og føles som en sportsvogn på en racerbane, der kan lande på et lille skib i hårdt vejr. Helikopteren har været en utrolig arbejdshest for Danmark, og har formået at fuldføre sine opgaver til perfektion, og har kunnet tilpasse sig de opgaver den har fået stillet.

At lande på et skib er ikke så svært, hvis vejret er godt, men vejret er ikke altid godt. Der er mange udfordringer ved en skibslanding, da piloten lander på en utrolig lille platform, og konsekvensen er meget stor hvis han rammer ved siden af.
Inde fra cockpittet i Lynx-helikopteren, mens den laver et skarpt drej.
Dette påvirker ikke piloterne, som er vant til disse manøvre.

At flyve fra skibe
Det er dog ikke sådan, at man skal være tryllekunstner for at lande på et skib, for hvis man som helikopterpilot kan lande på en heli-pad, så kan man også lande på et skib, da de to størrelser svarer forholdsvist til hinanden. Det at man lander forholdsvis tæt på hangaren på skibet påvirker det psykiske i landingen, hvilket kan være skræmmende de første gange man gør det.

Det kræver øvelse for at få det psykiske overtag til at lande på skibet, hvilket er en del af træningen af piloterne. Der er dog rigeligt med plads ombord på skibet, og man kan sammenligne det med dengang man lige havde fået sit kørekort til bil, og man skulle parkere. Her synes man at der ingen plads var, og man var virkelig bange for at ridse bilen, og man sneglede sig ind i båsen. Da man havde parkeret, og steg ud, så man at man alligevel havde en meter til hver side.

Den største udfordring for Lynx besætningen er at arbejde i Nordatlanten, da der bliver fløjet uden at have nogle alternative landepladser, og kun dem selv som meteorologer. Da vejret kan være utroligt omskifteligt, og det pludseligt kan lukke helt ned med tåge fra det ene øjeblik til det andet, og så kan de ikke bare flyve et andet sted hen. Det er en større udfordring, end det håndværksmæssige, ved at parkere den på et skib. Vejret og ingen alternativer er den største udfordring ved at flyve en maritim helikopter.

Træningen
Træningen af piloterne i Eskadrille 723 er meget lig den træning de to andre helikoptereskadrillers piloter modtager. Dog specialiserer 723’s piloter sig i noget, der hedder ‘Low level instrument’, som er flyvning lavt hen over vand. Det at flyve lavt og hurtigt er ikke noget nyt for en helikopterpilot, som typisk ligger i omkring 400 fod, når de flyver lavt.

Men når 723’s piloter flyver lavt og hurtigt, ligger de helt ned til 50 fod. De stoler på deres instrumenter, og bruger deres radar til at sikre at de kan flyve sikkert. Alt dette gøres både om dagen og om natten. Foruden at være eksperter i lavtflyvning, øver de søkrig, hvor de er med til at udpege fjenden over vand, samt redninger i arktisk vand, samt skibslandingstræning.

Når helikopterne bliver sendt ud på skibene, så er både helikopter og besætning gæster på skibet og der er intet problem i at falde fint ind med den øvrige besætning på skibet. Helikopteren er ombord på skibet under hele udsendelsen, hvor der foruden besætningen til at flyve helikopteren, også er 2 teknikere med. Teknikerne kan klare den type reparationer, der normalt dukker op ved normal flyvning.

De har ekstra reservedele og værktøj med til at kunne håndtere dette. Rotorblade, motorer osv. kan de også udskifte, hvis nødvendigt, om bord på skibet, dog ikke i høj søgang.

På vej retur til hjembasen for denne Esk. 723 Lynx-helikopter, Helikopter Wing Karup.
Lynx helikopteren over den jyske hede.

Eftersyn uden i verden
Der kan dog opstå ting, som kræver mere ekspertise, hvilket kræver at der kommer ekstra teknikere i en periode. Normalt bliver der også sendt teknikere op med ekspertise i rotorskift og motorskift, når dette er nødvendigt at gøre på helikopteren, da det oftest går hurtigere, og hvis der går noget galt, så er det altid rart at have en ekspert på skibet.

Der bliver årligt fløjet 450 timer ved Grønland, hvilket betyder at den Lynx der er ombord på skibet, vil ramme to 200 timers eftersyn under en udsendelse. Dette 200 timers eftersyn kan ikke varetages ombord på skibet, og hvis et stel rammer omkring de 200 timer, så kan det enten flyves hjem på den ene eller anden måde, eller hvad der oftest sker, er at hvis skibet ligger ved kaj i en større by, f.eks. i Reykjavik.

Det vil så være muligt at sætte det stel af på Keflavik-basen, hvor der er hangar faciliteter, som teknikerne kan bruge til eftersynet. Til sådan et eftersyn vil der blive fløjet det nødvendige personel op, således at eftersynet kun tager lidt over en uge.

Når eftersynet er foretaget, flyver man helikopteren tilbage til skibet, da det typisk ikke ligger i havn under hele forløbet. Det er et stort koordineringsarbejde og logistisk arbejde, som planlægges året før, for at få så lidt tid uden helikopter som muligt, og for at optimere processen omkring helikopterens rådighed.

Fremtiden – MH-60R Seahawk
Den mere end 30 år gamle Lynx-helikopter står for udskiftning, og i opstarten af konkurrencen omkring at erstatte Lynx-helikopteren, var følgende helikoptere kandidater:
  • MH-60R Seahawk
  • H-92 Superhawk
  • AW159 Wildcat
  • AW101 Merlin
  • NH90

De to nederste kandidater var kendinge fra udskiftningen af S-61 Sea King-helikopteren til Eskadrille 722, hvor AW101 (dengang navngivet EH-101) Merlin helikopteren vandt.

En anden “velkendt” helikopter på listen var en opgraderet version af Lynx-helikopteren, AW159 Wildcat. Wildcat-helikopteren bygger på den gamle Lynx platform, men med helt ny indmad og motorer.

I opløbsfasen var der tre kandidater tilbage, hvor to af dem var på den oprindelige liste fra opstarten, og en ny;
  • MH-60R Seahawk
  • AW159 Wildcat
  • AS565 MB Panther

I sidste ende blev det den amerikanske MH-60R Seahawk fra Sikorsky, der i 2012 vandt kontrakten på at erstatte de danske Lynx-helikoptere med ni nye Seahawks. Seahawk-helikopteren bygger på den kendte UH-60 Blackhawk-helikopter, som har været været i service med det amerikanske militær siden 1979.

MH-60R Seahawk-udgaven har dog ikke meget tilfælles med en UH-60 fra 1979, andet end at de i grove træk ligner hinanden. De nye MH-60R er en opgraderet version af SH-60B Seahawk, som den amerikanske flåde har brugt i mange år.
“I sidste ende blev det den amerikanske MH-60R Seahawk fra Sikorsky, der i 2012 vandt kontrakten på at erstatte de danske Lynx-helikoptere.”
Lynx-heliopteren laver ringe i vandet, mens den hover over fjorden.

Hvad fremtiden kommer til at indebære for Esk. 723; MH-60R Seahawks.
Her ses en række Seahawk helikoptere fra US Navy.
Den gennemprøvede platform
En gennemprøvet og solid platform, som sammenlignet med den nuværende Lynx, som Eskadrille 723 flyver i dag, kan meget mere, og som er både større og tungere, har en større kapacitet, samt helt nye avionics, i form af bedre sensorer, radar, radioudstyr, og længere endurance, således at det er muligt at holde helikopteren i luften i længere tid, hvilket øger dens missionsradius.

Kabinestørrelsen på Seahawk-helikopteren er større end den danske Lynx, men den er ikke kæmpestor og slet ikke på størrelse med en EH101. En forskel med at gå fra 4 til 5 personer, hvor de 2-3 af pladser allerede er optaget af kabinepersonale, så går man fra 1-2 passager til 2-3 passagerer, altså en forøgelse på 50-100%. En opgradering med teknologi der er 30 år længere fremme, giver nye muligheder i forhold til Lynx, og nye arbejdsopgaver.

FLYMAG vil kigge nærmere på MH-60R Seahawkhelikopteren, og hvordan Eskadrillen 723 vil bruge den, efter at de har modtaget de første Seahawkhelikoptere i løbet af 2016.

En stor tak til Helikopter Wing Karup, Eskadrille 723, Eskadrille 724 og især KIR, LER, REF og Christer Haven for muliggørelse af denne artikel.

Red Flag – Alaska 14–2

Red Flag – Alaska 14–2


“The last frontier”, som Alaska også er kendt som, byder på nogle muligheder for at træne i realistiske omgivelser og scenarier.
FLYMAG var med til Red Flag – Alaska 14-2.
BY: SØREN NIELSEN
Red Flag Alaska
Med et af de største luftrum i nordamerika tilgængeligt, tilbyder Red Flag Alaska et uovertruffen klasseværelse for alle de piloter, og deres flyvere der deltager i øvelsen. Øvelsen, som er en af de største øvelser for USAF Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), er predt ud over to USAF baser, Eielson AFB øst for Fairbanks, og Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson nord for Anchorage, samt US Army baserne, Fort Wainwright i Fairbanks og Fort Greely syd øst for Fairbanks.

Den varierede topografi under luftrummet i Alaska, indeholder bjerge, brede sletter og dale. I de specielle ranges i området, er der en omfattende række af mål og elektroniske “combat threat simulators”, der bruges til at teste missions planlæggere,og piloternes færdigheder.

Missionerne i dette miljø giver piloterne nogle erfaringer, og muligheder, som ikke ville være tilgængelige der hvor de normalt er baseret, og er en stor årsag til den verdensomspændende deltagelse til disse tre eller fire årlige øvelser. Hver to-ugers øvelse er en glimrende mulighed for at træne realistisk kamp flyvning, teste taktikker, og endda validere nyt udstyr i et miljø, der ligger meget tæt på faktiske luftkampe, som man ville finde i en krigszone.

En RAAF C-130J under start fra JBER, på vej ud til en Red Flag Alaska mission.
“Med et luftrum der spænder over hele 170.000 kvadratkilometer, giver det, foruden muligheden for at flyve hurtigere end lydens hastighed.”
Det store luftrum
En vigtig fordel ved at bruge de forskellige ranges i Alaska er, at supersonisk flyvning er tilladt i den største del af dem, og normalt er det ved, og over 30.000 fod MSL (Mean Sea Level).

Der er dog visse områder, hvor hurtigere end lydens hastigheds-flyvninger er tilladt ved lavere højder; enten ved 15.000 MSL eller 5000 fod AGL (Above Ground Level). Manglen på mange restriktioner, i forhold til deltagernes normale hjembase, giver mulighed for mere realistisk træning, mens de deltager i RF-A øvelsen. Derudover er brugen af defensive chaffs og flares i Alaskas ranges tilladt, hvilket gør at piloterne kan bruge alle af flyets kapacitet under øvelsen.

Med et luftrum der spænder over hele 170.000 kvadratkilometer, giver det, foruden muligheden for at flyve hurtigere end lydens hastighed, også mulighed for at enhederne kan øve low-level flyvning i subsoniske hastigheder, hvor de har mulighed for at flyve helt ned til 500 fod AGL. Dette giver enhederne nogle muligheder, for at øve missioner, som de ikke har mulighed for på deres hjem baser. En F-22 pilot fra 90th Fighter Squadron fortalte, dog at de ikke kom under 10.000 fod, med mindre at der opstår en teknisk fejl på deres jets.

Øvelsen bestræber sig på at give deltagerne, i luften, såvel på jorden, et så realistisk scenarie, som overhovedet muligt. Dette gøres for at give de deltagende piloter, soldater, såvel som ground crew, mission planlæggere med mere, en erfaring de ellers kun ville have fået i krig. Dette øger først og fremmest deres forståelse for at arbejde sammen som en stor koalition, men også øger deres chancer for at overleve faktisk kampe i krig, markant.

Blue vs Red
I løbet af de sidste to uger af juni 2014, brølede Red Flag Alaska 14-2 (RF-A 14-2) på himlen og på jorden af “The Last Frontier”. Amerikanske crew og flyvere, der normalt er hjemmehørende i Florida, Kansas, Nevada, Washington, og Sydkorea fløj sammen med australske og japanske allierede.

Besætninger og fly baseret i Alaska deltog også. De amerikanske enheder kom fra Air Force, Navy, og Air National Guard eskadriller. US Marines baseret på Cherry Point, North Carolina havde indsat et jordbaseret “Flyvertaktisk Operations Center” for at bistå “Blue Force”.

“Blue force” (de allierede kræfter), skal fuldføre en 10-dages væbnet konflikt. De slemme fyre, der er kendt som den “Red force”, udgiver sig for at være fjenden, og udgør derfor en trussel, i form af en adversarial udfordring / aggressors. Fra jorden kommer elektroniske countermeasures, eller simuleret antiluftskyts trusler. I luften er aggressor delen leveret af den Eielson AFB-baserede 18th Aggressor Squadrons F-16C fly, dog under RF-A 14-2, blev andre fly – herunder A-10Cs baseret i Sydkorea, brugt til at simulere anderledes luftbårne trusler, i dette tilfælde skulle de simulere de russisk byggede Su-25 Frogfoot.
F-15C fra Florida ANG deltog også i Red Flag Alaska 14-2.

JASDF F-15J venter på dagens næste Red Flag mission.
Udenlandsk deltagelse
Ikke alene bliver det simuleret at der skydes imod hinanden, men øvelses, samt live ordinance kan også kastes under øvelsen, afhængig af en enheds trænings budget, og de missioner de får til øvelsen. Dette giver igen mange enheder muligheder, de ikke har “hjemme”, hvor de ikke har mulighed for at kaste med live ordinance.

For RF-A 14-2, deltog Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) i øvelsen, som en selvstændig pakke, bestående af F-15J fightere, en E-767 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), og deres egne KC-767 tankers. En trio af japanske blå C-130H Hercules transport flyvere fløj missioner over vildmark i Alaska.

Før deres rejse mod øst fra Chitose Air Base til Eielson AFB, var det nødvendigt for de japanske F-15s at praktisere lufttankning (noget der ikke er en rutinemæssig begivenhed for dem der hjemme) før de kunne flyve over Stillehavet. Dette blev gjort, for at gennemføre turen uden at lave tidskrævende stop for at tanke. De blev “trukket” over Stillehavet af PACAF KC-135s.

Realistiske omgivelser og scenarier
Under selve øvelsen i Alaska, blev de lufttanket af deres egne KC-767 tankers. Royal Australian Air Force havde bragt et par af nyere C-130J-30 Super Hercules transporterer også; tre stop for brændstof var nødvendigt, for at nå hele vejen til Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

RF-A missioner tilbyder en chance for at validere udstyr, og drift teknikker. Både de japanske og australske fly, benyttede de realistiske omgivelser, og scenarier til at evaluere og vurdere, hvordan de forskellige systemer ombord på nogle af deres fly virkede. Med elektronisk simulerede anti-luftskyts missiler, og de luftbårne aggressor F-16Cs, blev både defensive, og offensive systemer sat på en prøve til deres grænser uden egentlig, at der blev brugt live våben.

En pilot fra 18th Aggressor Squadron fortalte, at hver enhed bringer deres egne teknikker til “kampen”. Som Aggressor arbejder de for at udfordre disse teknikker, og gennem en øvelse, skifter begge parters planer og taktikker til at opfylde nye eller andre trusler.

Der er en masse diskussion, omkring den “erfaring”, som man har fået, både under, og ved afslutningen af disse øvelser. Når aggressorerne taber en kamp, er det faktisk en “lose-win-win” situation; som “Blue forces” vinder, har “Red forces” valideret deres modstanderes taktik.

To gange dagligt, er der en massiv launch af 50 til 60 fly, fra 2 flyvestationer. Lokalt baserede F-22A Raptors, E-3 Sentry AWACS, og transporterer opererer fra Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, mens Tanker Task Forces KC-135s, og hovedparten af fighterne, samt bombefly flyver fra Eielson AFB. Med deres afgangstider stramt kontrolleret på minuttet, starter fighterne i grupper af 2 eller 4, for at lave et samlet angreb, eller for at tilslutte sig til en kredsende KC-135 tanker, for at få til brændstof, således at de kan komme dybere ind i fjendes område.
“Med elektronisk simulerede anti-luftskyts missiler, og de luftbårne aggressor F-16Cs, blev både defensive, og offensive systemer sat på en prøve til deres grænser uden egentlig, at der blev brugt live våben.”
En KC-135 starter, med det flotte landskab i baggrunden. KC-135erne har en vigtig rolle i dette store “krigsspil”. Uden TTF – Tactical Tanker Force, ville det ikke være muligt at holde så mange fightere i luften samtidig.

Raptors fra Joint Base Elmendrof-Richardson (JBER) deltager ofte i Red Flag Alaska.
Return to base
Et par timer senere returnerer flyene, tilbage til deres flybaser i forskellige formation, og udfører “run and break” for derefter at komme ind i landings pattern. Ground crew begynder straks at forberede flyverne til deres næste mission. Der går omkring fire timer mellem morgen, og eftermiddag missioner. Tungere vedligeholdelsen blev udført natten.

En ting man hørte flere snakke om, under øvelse, var at Red Flag Alaska 14-2 var en værdifuld øvelse, uanset om du havde meget lidt, eller en enorm mængde erfaring. Det var en stor mulighed for at validere taktik og testudstyr under realistiske forhold.

En stor tak til SSgt. Jim Araos på Eielson AFB og SSgt. John Wright på Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, for muliggørelsen af denne artikel.

Escadron de Chasse 02.005 – “Île-de-France”

Escadron de Chasse 02.005 “Île-de-France”


Eskadrillen er i dag en front-line enhed, en træningsenhed, og en konverteringsenhed for alle Mirage 2000 piloter i France Air Force.
AF: SØREN NIELSEN
Escadron de Chasse 02.005
FLYMAG var i november 2014 en tur ved den franske fightereskadrille EC 02.005.

Eskadrillen har været aktiv siden 1941 og krigsårene omkring 2. verdenskrig bød på godt 7.845 togter, 10.000 flyvetimer, 37 fjendtlige fly nedskudt, og over 500 ødelagte biler og lokomotiver. Tredive piloter dræbt, og 6 blev taget som krigsfanger.

Mange såret, nogle alvorligt. “Figther Sweeps” missioner har krævet sine ofre, og eskadrillen er for deres tapre handlinger blevet tildelt det franske “Croix de la Liberation”.

Denne artikel vil tage dig igennem enhedens utallige flytninger, og give dig et indblik i historien, som har formet enheden, til den den er i dag. ‘

Eskadrillen er i dag en front-line enhed, en træningsenhed, og en konverteringsenhed for alle Mirage 2000 piloter i France Air Force.

 
Ground crewet er igang med de sidste forberedelser inden at han overdrager denne
Mirage 2000C til piloten, som er på vej ud til en mørke mission.

Historien om “Île-de-France”
Den franske fightereskadrille EC 02.005 blev oprindeligt grundlagt som 340 (Free France) Squadron under Royal Air Force / No. 340 Squadron RAF, og skabt af Charles de Gaulle, på RAF Turnhouse (den nuværende EdinburghLufthavn) i Skotland den 7. november 1941, som en del af Le Groupe de Chasse IV / 2 (Fighter Group 4-2) “Ile de France”. Eskadrillen blev dengang udstyret med Spitfire Mk I fightere.

Den 29. november 1941 blev eskadrillen operationel og patruljerede i det nordlige britiske luftrum for at forsvare Skotland. I 1942 blev de flyttet sydpå for at begynde at udføre “fighter sweeps” over det nordlige Frankrig. Disse “fighter sweeps” gik ud på at opsøge, og nedskyde fjendtlige fly. Mellem den 1. april, og 8. april 1942 blev eskadrillen baseret på Redhill Aerodrome nær Gatwick, og derefter mellem den 27. juli 1942, og 20. marts 1943 på RAF Biggin Hill.

I marts 1943 blev eskadrillen trukket tilbage, og vendte tilbage til Skotland. De var dog ikke længe Skotland, og flyttede allerede i november 1943 til det sydvestlige England for igen at lave “fighter sweeps” missioner, og anti-skibsfart missioner ud for Bretagnes kyst. Eskadrillen tilsluttede sig Wing of the Second Tactical Air Force (2 TAF) i april 1944, hvor 340 Squadron hjalp med at give fighter dækning under landgangen i Normandiet, for efterfølgende at flytte til Frankrig i august.

En Mirage 2000C med fuld afterburner, tager afsted til endnu en mission,
med den flotte baggrunde fra bjergene omkring Orange.
“I krigsårene omkring 2. verdenskrig, fløj 340 Squadron 7.845 togter, og over 10.000 flyvetimer. Eskadrillen nedskød 37 fjendtlige fly, og over 500 ødelagte biler og lokomotiver.
Anden verdenskrig
Efter at være kommet videre til Belgien i september 1944, vendte eskadrillen tilbage til Storbritannien for at flyve eskorteringsmissioner for bombefly, og var lige baseret på RAF Biggin Hill mellem den 3. november og den 19. november 1944. I februar 1945 vendte eskadrillen tilbage til 2 TAF, som på daværende tidspunkt var baseret i Holland, hvor de fløj “fighter sweeps” i resten af krigen over Tyskland. Efter en kort periode under besættelsesmagten, blev 340 Squadron overført til Armee de l’Air (Armée de l’Air) den 25. november 1945.

I krigsårene omkring 2. verdenskrig, fløj 340 Squadron 7.845 togter, og over 10.000 flyvetimer. Eskadrillen nedskød 37 fjendtlige fly, og over 500 ødelagte biler og lokomotiver. Tredive af deres piloter blev dræbt, og 6 blev taget som krigsfanger. Mange flere blev såret, nogle alvorligt.

For deres tapre handlinger, blev 340 Squadron tildelt det franske “Croix de la Liberation”. Dette blev tildelt heltene fra befrielsen af Frankrig, og er en ekseptionel ære, kun overgået af “Legion d’Honneur”. Kun 18 blev tildelt til franske militære enheder. Ud over denne tildelingen af “Legion d’Honneur” til enheden, blev også 19 af enhedens medlemmer udpeget til ordren med titlen “Compagnon de la Liberation”.

Eskadrillen blev integreret i 5. Wing i juli 1947, og blev udstyret med Bell P-63 Kingcobra. Fra juli 1949 til januar 1951, vendte eskadrillen tilbage i krig, da den blev sat ind i Indokina-krigen.

I marts 1951 modtog enheden udnævnelsen af Fighter Squadron 02.005 “Île-de-France”, og flyttede til Air Base 115 Orange-Caritat, for at konvertere til De Havilland Vampire.


Orange
På dette tidspunkt blev enhedens historie fulgt nøje af en anden eskadrille baseret på Orange, EC 01.005 “Vendée”. Begge enheder har modtaget de samme flytyper, med et par måneders mellemrum, og blev tildelt de samme operative deployments lige efter hinanden. I september 1992 fik EC 02.005 “Île-de-France” den ære at være den første enhed i Armée de l’Air, der blev udstationeret i Saudi-Arabien, da de skulle håndhæve flyveforbudszonen over Irak, efter den første Golfkrig. Enheden har efterfølgende deltaget lignende operationer i Bosnien.

I årenes løb har eskadrillen fløjet Bell P63 Kingcobra, De Havilland Vampire Mk 1, De Havilland Vampire Mk 5, SNCASE Mistral, Mystere II, Mystere IV, Super Mystere B2, Mirage IIIC, Mirage F1C og endelig Mirage 2000.

Siden 1997 har EC 02.005 “Île-de-France” været ansvarlig for uddannelse, samt operationel konvertering af alle Mirage 2000 piloter, selvom deres vigtigste opgave stadig er luftforsvar. Til dette, er enheden udstyret med 17 tosædede Mirage 2000B, og 7 enkeltsædede Mirage 2000C jagerfly.

Den 11. juni 2010 blev EC 02.005 “Île-de-France”, og EC 01.012 Cambrai udsendt til Tchad for at erstatte de sidste tilbageværende Armée de l’Air Dassault Mirage F1 på det afrikanske kontinent.

Eskadrillen har efterfølgende været en del af QRA i Polen, som en del af reaktionen fra NATO på den russiske aggression i Ukraine, samt deltaget i QRA over Baltikum, som en del af Baltic Air Policing, hvor de har haft til opgave at yde luftforsvar, og lave rekognoscering i Østersøen, og i de østeuropæiske regioner.

Selvom Armée de l’Air deltog i handlingerne over Libyen, var EC 02.005 “Île-de-France” ikke engageret i dette, men varetog QRA for andre franske enheder, som var engageret i Libyen.

Selv om regnen siler ned, så laver ground crewet checks på denne Mirage 2000C,
efter at piloten har endt sin mission, og overdraget flyet til ground crewet.
Ground crew og pilot gennemgår denne Mirage 2000C, før overlevering
fra ground crew til piloten, inden start på mission.

Dagligdagen
Foruden at være en front-line enhed, er eskadrillen også trænings, samt konverteringsenhed for alle Mirage 2000 piloter i France Air Force, om det er på C, D, N eller -5 modellen. En konvertering til Mirage 2000 pilot, tager omkring 5 til 6 måneder, alt efter hvor erfaren piloten er, og hvilken flytype piloten kommer fra. De fleste konverterings piloter er dog nye piloter, der kommer fra tidligere at have fløjet Alpha jet, som er Armée de l’Air jet trainer.

Enheden flyver til dagligt Mirage 2000B og Mirage 2000C, hvor der flyves mellem 3 til 5 sorties om dagen. Disse sorties kan bestå mellem mange forskellige missionstyper. Der bliver oftes fløjet såkaldte air superiority missioner, som enten kan være af typen “Offensive Counter Air”, eller “Defensive Counter Air”.

Offensive Counter Air (OCA) er en militær betegnelse for undertrykkelse af en fjendes militære flyvevåben, ved at ødelægge, eller uskadeliggøre deres fly, helst allerede på jorden. Dette omfatter også at beskadige infrastrukturer (f.eks start- og landingsbaner), eller logistiske mål, således at det ikke er muligt at starte, eller lande fly, og på den måde uskadeliggøre dem.

Luft-til-luft missioner gennemført af kampfly er også Offensive Counter Air, men de ses som en forholdsvis langsom måde at nå det endelige mål – total luft overlegenhed / air superiority.

Defensive Counter Air (DCA) er ligesom OCA, en militær betegnelse som dækker over alle defensive foranstaltninger til opdage, identificere, opfange og ødelægge eller uskadeliggøre fjendens styrker, der forsøger at angribe, eller trænge ind i venligt luftrum. Dette kan også dække over eskortering af fly, både i fjendtligt, samt venligt luftrum, såsom transport, bombe, eller rekognosceringsfly, som ikke er i stand til at forsvare sig selv.


Winter Wonderland – F 21

Norrbottens Flygflottilj – F 21


FLYMAG took the trip to the North, to get close to our neighbors to the east, and its northern wing, Norrbottens Flygflottilj F 21
BY: SØREN NIELSEN
F 21 Wing
The F 21 Wing initially formed as a detachment from the rest of the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet) in the north of the country in the early 1940s. The first permanent squadron joined the F 21 in the late forties, when the 211th Squadron was formed. The F 21 started out as a reconnaissance wing with this squadron as the only unit flying missions in the northern part of Sweden, some in Finland and as far away as Russia.

The squadron started out flying the S 18, a photo-reconnaissance version of the Saab B 18A bomber. Since then the squadron have flown many types of aircraft, including Spitfire, Mustang, Vampire, Tunnan, Lansen, Draken, Viggen and now the Gripen.

The second unit, the 212th Squadron, was formed and added to the wing during the early sixties. At this time both squadrons were flying the Lansen, one using the reconnaissance S 32 Lansen and the other squadron in the air-to-air fighter, the J 32 Lansen.

This was the beginning of an era with each squadron having very different and specific tasks. One had the reconnaissance role and the other had the air-to-air fighter role.

Two JAS 39 Gripen flying in formation, while the beautiful spring sun shines on them.
“This was the beginning of an era, with each squadron having very different and specific tasks.”
Multirole squadrons
Both squadrons transitioned to the Draken in the late sixties again in the reconnaissance version S 35E Draken and the fighter version J 35D Draken.

In the early seventies a third unit was added to the F 21 wing, the 213th Squadron. This squadron was equipped with the SK 60B bomber and had attack missions as their primary role.

The first Viggens were added to the wing during the late seventies, when the 211th Squadron started flying the reconnaissance version S 37 Viggen.

In the eighties, the 212th and 213th squadrons were both equipped with the air-to-air/attack version JA 37 Viggen. This started the multirole era during which a squadron no longer had only one mission, but was undertaking multiple roles.

The 211th Squadron was later equipped with both the reconnaissance and the air-to-air/attack version, the JA 37 Viggen. The Viggen upgrade programme then combined the different versions in a kind of a midlife upgrade project. It now became possible for the pilots to drop bombs and use heat seeking missiles during the same sortie.

In the late nineties, the third squadron was disbanded as a result of single role squadrons turning into multirole squadrons. The 212th Squadron transitioned to the JAS 39 Gripen a few years later covering all the roles and missions that the 212th & 213th Squadron had undertaken together.

211th Squadron ‘Akktu Stakki’
The 211th Squadron continued to fly the Viggen, but there was no defined role for their two-seat versions, so they armed them with jammers, turning this amazing plane into an electronic warfare fighter. The 211th Squadron flew all the different versions of the Viggen, including AJSF 37, AJSH 37, JA 37, and SK 37 from around the millennium to the end of the Viggen-era in 2005. The 211th Squadron was the last squadron in the world flying the Viggen.

The squadron then transitioned to the JAS 39A/B Gripen in 2006 and the entire wing was finally upgraded to the current C/D versions in 2008. The amount of airframes was reduced at the same time.

Another change was the fact that the squadron’s didn´t have their own airframes any longer as all the aircraft were shared across the wing. This cross-squadron cooperation was seen to good effect in 2011, when the Libyan operation was conducted with elements of both squadrons put together.

The lone wolf
The 211th Squadron is named “Akktu Stakki”. Akktu Stakki is in the native language of Sami, which translates into “The lone wolf”. The squadron was given this name as it was doing reconnaissance and when you fly reconnaissance missions, you are often alone as a pilot, deep in enemy territory.

Even the squadron emblem features a wolf although it’s actually the Big Bad Wolf from the Disney cartoon. The squadron even has a signed letter from Walt Disney saying that they are allowed to use the wolf in their emblem.

Today the squadron doesn’t only do reconnaissance, but covers all aspects of the multi role capabilities of the JAS 39 Gripen. The main tasks of the squadron are now Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) and Combat Readiness Training.

There has been an increase in activity for QRA around Scandinavia for the past couple of years, especially because of the Russians trying to show their new found strength by flying variety of mock bombing and fighter scenarios close to the borders of the Baltic and Scandinavian countries.

Compared to other parts of the country, the QRA activity hasn’t really increased much for the F 21, as they are surrounded by Finland and Norway.
The pilot checks whether everything is as it should be, before the next mission.

Luleå airport where Norrbotten Flygflottilj – F 21 belongs.
QRA for the entire Sweden
Strictly speaking, this is not entirely true as the QRA role is different for the F 21 wing, compared to the other Swedish wings. The F 21 wing is also responsible for QRA in different parts of Sweden, including Såtenäs, Ronneby, Visby and Malmen

The squadrons are planning when and whether the 211th Squadron or the 212th Squadron deploys to these air bases and this work includes logistics such as bringing together all the necessary equipment, airframes and crew including pilots, ground crew, mission planners and so on.

Students and international readiness
The Flygvapnet squadrons work in three cycles each lasting a year. A squadron starts out with training students, then the next year the squadron prepares for international readiness. The last year the squadron is on international readiness.

It is during this period the squadron can be deployed to international hot spots like “Operation Freedom Falcon”, the 2011 military intervention in Libya. When training pilot students, the amount of international exercises are very limited, as the cross border training programme gives the students the benefit of international exercises.

NATO Partnership for Peace
Usually students are deployed to Rovaniemi in Finland to give them a possibility to familiarize themselves with an unknown airspace. Doing the second and third year, when the unit prepares for international readiness, they attempt to participate in at least one, sometimes two large international exercises.

Sweden is a NATO Partnership for Peace – P.f.P. nation, which means that NATO builds relationships with partners through military-to-military cooperation on training, exercises, disaster planning and response, science and environmental issues, professionalization, policy planning, and relations with civilian governments.

Sweden participates in many international missions, despite not being a full member of NATO. NATO would most likely call upon Sweden’s help in an international situation, given that Sweden operates a fairly new multirole plane, the JAS 39 Gripen.

The Flygvapnet is a lot further ahead, technology wise than some NATO nations, and even more so when they upgrade to the new E/F version of the Gripen.

The question of whether Sweden should join NATO or stay neutral and not be bound to any alliance has for many years been a point of controversy. The Swedish people are becoming more positive towards NATO, and think that NATO actually makes a difference.

Sweden will be a part of the NATO Response Force from 2016 and Sweden actually participates in more international missions than many of the full NATO members.
“NATO would most likely call upon Sweden’s help in an international situation.”
The sun lights up the frozen lake up while the two JAS 39 flies above it.

Snow and deserted areas is something you do not have to go far to get in Luleå.
Winter wonderland
As Luleå is located just south of the Arctic Circle, it presents a lot of challenges during winter time, especially with extremely cold weather and very limited daylight. But instead of seeing it as a problem, the F 21 wing takes this as a challenge and uses it to it’s advantage.

During winter, the wing has the opportunity to easily fly “night”-sorties during normal daytime working hours. This is a huge benefit for the unit as pilots do not need to stay late and fly all night to get the dark sortie training.

The downside of the northerly location of Luleå is that the weather is a huge factor during winter and sorties are often cancelled. To compensate for the cancelled sorties, the unit has four weeks every year during which they only fly dark sorties. The pilots train for operating the different sensors and weapons systems in the dark.

The four weeks are scheduled with two weeks in a row in November / December and again two weeks in January / February. This way, having two weeks in row, the unit reduces the amount of sorties that they need to cancel.

Flying in the dark, during the day
It’s not only the four weeks that they train dark sorties. The unit fly dark sorties every Thursday from around the beginning of October to the end of May, weather permitting. During the summertime there is daylight virtually all day long, making it perfect to train low level missions and daylight sorties.

During winter, poor weather is not the only challenge. The associated temperatures are also an important factor. Missions are carried out even if it’s -25 degrees outside. The only restriction during such low temperatures is that they can never be further away than nineteen minutes of flying time by the rescue helicopter.

Flying at -25 is avoided though. When adding darkness, the wind chill factor (making it feel more like -55) and that the rescue helicopter can’t find you right away, it is simply an unnecessary risk to take.

“The answer is simple, in having the Norwegian air base at Bodø, the Swedish air base at Luleå, and the Finnish air base at Rovaniemi so perfectly geographically located.
The silhouettes of the beautiful JAS 39, can here be seen over the bay at Luleå.
 
The pilot has settled down and doing the final preparations together with the ground crew before departure for a mission in the dark.

The Cross Border Training programme
How do you optimize your daily training to involve training against other squadrons from other nations with different kind of airframes without deploying?

The answer is simple, in having the Norwegian air base at Bodø, the Swedish air base at Luleå, and the Finnish air base at Rovaniemi so perfectly geographically located as to utilize the potential of Nordic defense cooperation across the borders of the countries – which started out as the Cross Border Training programme.

What started more than ten years ago as small basic air to air engagements training, has now grown into one of the most effective daily training programs you can find anywhere in the world, utilizing the massive airspace of the remote and deserted northern part of Sweden.

Today, the Cross Border Training programme is a large operation, where the squadrons at the three northern bases can put in a wish-list of what kind of training they want. It can range from a large forces deployment to simple basic training for the students of the squadron.

This wish-list is then once a year conducted into the operational plan for the Cross Border Training. The plan is to have 64 events a year. This is then revisited after six months to check if they are sticking to the plan.

Takes turns being the “enemy”
Some days it’s two nations fighting each other, other days it’s all three nations joining the fighting, where a typical trilateral force would be eight Swedish JAS 39 Gripens and two Norwegian F-16s working together against six F-18s from Finland. The nations share the burden as red air, where they try to have every second sortie as the ‘enemy’ doing as they please.

The sortie is build up upon what the ‘good guys’ want, and Red air will then play the role desired by the other units. In this way, you get as much variation as possible, but also optimizing your training to be specific to what you want to train for, whether it’s offensive counter air, defensive counter air, large scale deployment scenarios or what the squadron wants.

The Cross Border Training Programme is a very rewarding cooperation, as it doesn’t cost anything more than regular training would cost. The squadron doesn’t have to deploy as they take off from their home base, then they fight and land back at their home base.

The squadrons have setup a video conference system, so that they can do briefing and debriefing “face-to-face”, even though they are not located at the same airbase.

They do the mission planning in a special internet portal, where all the mission commanders put in their planning. All of the briefings and debriefings are also stored in this portal. In this way everybody can evaluate the facts of the missions, and this gives the squadrons a unique opportunity to enhance their training.

The Cross Border Training gives an almost endless list of advantages, the main one being that the students of the Cross Border Training squadrons have flown many more sorties against a mix of JAS 39 Gripen, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-18 Hornet aircraft whereas the students that are in squadrons that are not part of the Cross Border Training program have not flown many sorties against other systems besides their own.
Arctic Fighter Meet
Once a year the participating squadrons arrange an actual meeting with the units meeting face to face at one of the air base. This is called The Arctic Fighter Meet and is a great opportunity to meet, and shake the hands of the pilots you fight, and do video conferences with. It creates a strong connection, and relationship between the squadrons across the border.

The meeting is very valuable, and it gives the squadrons a chance to learn the pros and cons from the other squadrons. During the Arctic Fight Meet some of the more experienced pilots from one nation, fly with the younger, and less experienced pilots from another nation – a way to benefits all the players.

The Cross Border Training Programme is a very good, and unique cooperation between the three countries.

Off it goes! Although most hours in winter are in the dark, missions are also flown in the hours where there still is light.

The large airspace, and big ranges
The Cross Border Training program benefits from the massive airspace of the remote and deserted northern part of Sweden. Having an airspace almost four times larger than the airspace used for the Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB in America gives a lot of opportunities, combined with very few restrictions. There are different ranges very close to Luleå that make for an ideal combat ground.

When compared to other airspace within central Europe, the Cross Border Training program is spoiled, says squadron commander LtCol Tobhias Wikström. He mentions that every time he is deployed, he is surprised about how many restrictions the alternative airspaces have and how they can plan their air to air training because they are always restricted in either the size of the area, altitude or speed.

Having the largest live firing, evaluation and test range in Europe within five minutes of your base is a big plus. With 10,000 square kilometers of restricted airspace and up to 3,300 square kilometers of restricted ground space, gives evaluation programs a possibility to be executed efficiently with very few restrictions from other air or ground activities.

As it’s the Swedish government defense industry that owns the range, you cannot drop bombs as you like, so you need to book time. The big advantage of the range is that everything you drop gets measured and evaluated which is very useful for the squadron learning. The Flygvapnet are not only the air force that uses the range; the defense industry and a lot of foreign nationalities are also present as well as other parts of the Swedish armed forces.

The range was a former cold war base and it still has a landing strip, which makes it ideal for squadron deployments direct to the range instead of a nearby base.

Two JAS 39 Gripen flying in formation, while the beautiful spring sun shines on them.
“Having the largest live firing, evaluation and test range in Europe within five minutes of your base is a big plus.”
Arctic Challenge Exercise
Take the advantages from the Cross Border Training program community, and the Arctic Fighter Meet, and put it into a large international exercise, this gives you Arctic Challenge Exercise, ACE. This exercise utilizes the same advantages as the Cross Border Training program gives, but includes more units spread out across 3 air bases.

The aim is to exercise and train units in the orchestration and conduct of complex air operations, with a close relationship to NATO, and Protection for Peace partners. The unique cross border air space makes ACE a one of a kind training ground for increasing interoperability and skills in all parts of the chain.

The exercise consists of a wide range of scenario drills, and cooperation between the three host bases, with large operational areas available both in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

There are two flight periods per day with the first one focusing on training with units stationed at the same base, with flights taking place in the surrounding air space. This includes everything from weapon delivery, both against ground and airborne targets and combating simulated anti-aircraft artillery, to low-level flying and air-to-air refueling.

The second period of flying comprises of composite air operations where all aircraft meet, mainly in the Swedish air space, for a vast operation.

ACE 2015 will be one of the largest exercises within Europe in 2015, having about 3,600 personal and 115 aircraft from nine different countries taking part. The participating nations besides Sweden, Norway, and Finland, will be Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Germany, USA and Holland.

ACE 2015 is the second time that the multinational training exercise has been carried out, the first being in 2013 and the future plan is to continue every other year. Even though Norway, Sweden and Finland are the host nations, all of the participating countries contribute to the planning, which helps build the national and allied capability to lead air operations.

The future of the F 21 wing
More or less all the armed forces around the world are facing cutbacks. There is currently a suggestion from the politicians to reorganize the whole Swedish defense force, which would mean that the air force could cut back the number of active squadrons by having one, bigger wing at each base, F 7 Såtenäs, F 17 Ronneby, and F 21 Luleå.

This is to reduce the expense by reducing the number of personal and airframes. It has been suggested that this change in the structure of the air force and squadrons will be put into effect once the squadron’s transition to the JAS 39E/F Gripen, the latest JAS 39 version – the “Next Generation” is completed.

The pilot checks his g-suit for leakage before he steps out to his JAS 39.
 
The full moon lights up the otherwise dark evening sky.

The survival of the 211th squadron
The wings will still have the capabilities they have today even with the reduced number of planes. This is something that is common for the armed forces around the world today especially in European countries.

“If this suggestion goes through, then it will most likely be the 211th squadron that will survive. The F 21 wing started out with 211th squadron and now we will see what the future brings”, says squadron commander LtCol Tobhias Wikström.

A big thanks to Louise Levin, Head of Public Affairs Office F 21, squadron commander of 211 squadron LtCol Tobhias Wikström, Martin Westerstrand and Björn Lindroth for making this article possible.

N.K.A.W.T.G – Nobody Kicks Ass Without Tanker Gas

Air-to-air refueling


Find out what’s behind the cryptic title and come on a visit to the 100th Air Refuelling Wing at RAF Mildenhall.
BY: SØREN AUGUSTESEN
N.K.A.W.T.G – Nobody Kicks Ass Without Tanker Gas
The mysterious headline of this article needs no Latin translation skills as it is the unofficial tanker pilot motto: Nobody Kicks Ass Without Tanker Gas. In this article, we will take a look at the history of air refuelling, a closer look at the dominant tanker aircraft of the USAF and we will take to the skies on an air refuelling mission with the 351st Air Refuelling Squadron which is part of the 100th Air Refuelling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, England.

The history of air-to-air refuelling
The first attempts to refuel one aircraft in the air from another took place back in the early 1920s. The first successful air refuelling was finally conducted on 27 June 1923, between two Airco DH-4B bi-planes from the US Army Air Service. The refuelling was carried out by lowering a hose from the top aircraft to the receiving aircraft which was flying below and behind. One of the crew members on the receiving aircraft had to catch the hose and then manually insert it into the normal filling point.

Just one month later three DH-4B aircraft, two tankers and one receiver aircraft, set a world record by keeping the receiver aircraft in the air for over thirty seven hours. This was made possible by nine air refuelling’s during which 2600L of fuel and 140L of engine oil were transferred.

During the 1920s and ‘30s, the techniques and the equipment used for air refuelling were refined and in 1935, the record for the longest time in the air had been raised to twenty seven days. Air refuelling was still a complex and dangerous task and it was not until the late 1930s that Richard Atcherley from the RAF developed the first practical air-refuelling system called the “looped-hose”.

Even with a more convenient and safe method to perform air-refuelling, it was still seen as something that was most useful for long-haul commercial aircraft. It was only during the very last months of WWII that the USAAF began to consider using air-refuelling to extend the range of their bombers during the expected battle for the Japanese mainland. However, the war ended before these plans could be implemented.

After the war, the USAF rebuilt a small number of B-29 Superfortress aircraft so they could act as air-refuelling aircraft and refuel other B-29’s and the later B-50 bombers.

A F-15E Strike Eagle is being refueled while both the KC-135 and the F-15E carries out a soft and steady left turn.

“The advantages of the probe-and-drogue system are that it is relatively simple and can be retrofitted to many different types of aircraft”
An example of the “probe-and-drogue” tanking method. A USMC KC-130 tanker aircraft, is “tanking” two CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters.
Probe-and-Drogue
After WWII, the company behind the looped-hose method, Flight Refuelling Ltd, realised that this system was not an optimal way to conduct air-to-air fuelling so they began developing a newer and better idea. What they came up with was the “probe-and-drogue” system, which is one of the two methods still used today for air-to-air refuelling.

A probe-and-drogue system was installed in a Lancaster from the RAF and to test the system, a modified Gloster Meteor F.3 was used for the refuelling trials. In short, the probe-and-drogue system works by the tanker aircraft unreeling a fuel hose out into the slipstream behind itself. At the end of the hose is a basket shaped like a badminton shuttlecock. The receiver aircraft must connect to the inside of the basket using an external probe that is connected to the aircraft fuel tanks.

Some of the advantages of the probe-and-drogue system are that it is relatively simple and can be retrofitted to many different types of aircraft, from large transport aircraft such as the C-130 Hercules to smaller fighter aircraft like the F/A-18 Hornet. On larger aircraft, multiple probe-and-drogue systems can be installed, for instance one under each wing making it possible to refuel two aircraft at the same time.

However, there are also some drawbacks to the design including a slow fuel flow (between 680 to 2040 kg per minute). This is due to the relatively small diameter fuel hose which in turn means it takes longer to refuel the receiving aircraft. It can also be difficult for the receiving plane to insert the probe into the basket due to turbulence behind the tanker aircraft.

Today, most US Navy aircraft and helicopters as well as some of the USAF and US Army’s helicopters use the probe-and-drogue method. In addition, all non-US aircraft manufacturers use the probe-and-drogue system in their designs if in-flight refuelling is needed.res jagerfly.


Flying boom
In the late 1940s, Boeing was given the task of developing a system that was able to transfer fuel faster than the probe-and-drogue method. This resulted in the “flying boom” system. The rigid, larger diameter fuel pipe, or boom, is guided into a mating receptacle on the receiving aircraft by the operator, called the “boomer”, on board the tanker aircraft.

The system was first installed on a B-29 aircraft in 1950 and a total of 116 B-29s were converted to KB-29P models by Boeing. Subsequently, Boeing developed the KC-97 tanker aircraft. However, as the KC-97 had both propeller engines and jet engines, it meant that it had to carry two types of fuel, which proved to be less than ideal. Despite this, the flying boom concept had proven its worth as it offered a number of advantages over probe-and-drogue method amongst which were a much high fuel flow rate (up to 2900 kg per minute).

Having the boom controlled by the boomer on board the tanker also made it easier to refuel in bad weather. Planes with a flying boom installed, could typically also be retrofitted with probe-and-drogue system under their wings to overcome the main disadvantages of the flying boom, that is to say that it can only refuel one aircraft at a time.

After building the KC-97, Boeing received orders from the USAF to develop a new tanker aircraft based on their 367-80 (Dash-80) concept. This resulted in the KC-135 Stratotanker.The flying boom system is now standard on all USAF fixed wing aircraft that need aerial refuelling.

The mighty flying gas station, KC-135 is ready for the next sortie.
The WSO on this F-15E Strike Eagle keeps a sharp eye on the boom while the pilot keeps the plane in the correct formation with the tanker aircraft.

Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
The first KC-135A tanker aircraft were delivered to the USAF on 24 January 1957. A total of 808 C-135 aircraft were delivered to the USAF, in various models and configurations:
  • 729 KC-135A – Standard tanker configuration
  • 17 KC-135B – Temporary designation for EC-135 type
  • 18 C-135A – Standard transport aircraft
  • 30 C-135B – Standard transport aircraft
  • 4 RC-135A – Special edition used for mapping
  • 10 RC-135B – Temporary designation for special surveillance

All aircraft were delivered with either the Pratt & Whitney J57-P-59W turbojet engines (A models) or the Pratt & Whitney TF-33-PW-102 turbofan engines (B models). Of the total of 808 aircraft delivered to the USAF, approximately 454 are still in use today. These aircraft have undergone many updates over the years and they have evolved to cope with many tasks other than just air refuelling.

The turbojet engines used in the A-models were very inefficient as they had high fuel consumption and required long runways for take-off. As a temporary solution, the USAF began to replace turbojet engines with TF-33-PW-102 turbofan engines in 1982. These engines were taken from retired airliners and in total, over 150 KC-135A models had their engines replaced. Their designations were changed to KC-135E.

The latest upgrades
As the first E-models were put into service by the USAF, Boeing came up with a proposal for a more radical plan to extend the service life of the KC-135 family. One of the major changes was to install the high-bypass turbofan CFM International CFM56 engines. These received the military designation F-108-CF-100.

This engine gave significant improvements in terms of both more power and lower fuel consumption. Boeing completed the first upgrade with this type of engine in June 1984 and this aircraft model was designated the KC-135R. Besides the new engines, the upgrade also included an auxiliary power unit (APU), which is located in the rear of the aircraft’s cargo compartment. The APU meant that the aircraft was now able to start the engines without help from equipment on the ground.

R-models were also given the so-called Pacer CRAG update, which replaced the old analogue style cockpit with a new digital version. These and a number of other upgrades, transformed KC-135 aircraft into the modern planes that will be in service for many years to come.

Today’s KC-135 models
There are five types of KC-135 tanker aircraft currently in the USAF inventory:
  • KKC-135R: Standard tankers, a total of 313 in service
  • KC-135T: Originally KC-135Q used to refuel SR-71 Blackbirds, a total of 54 in service
  • KC-135R AAR: KC-135R tanker aircraft which can receive air refuelling via a receptacle above the cockpit, a total of 8 in service
  • KC-135R MPR: KC-135R with probe-and-drogue refuelling system under the wings, a total of 20 in service

A total of 22 KC-135R tanker aircraft are upgraded to perform tasks with US Special Forces, but the detail of the upgrades is classified.
“The upgrade also included an auxiliary power unit (APU), which is located in the rear of the aircraft’s cargo compartment. The APU meant that the aircraft was now able to start the engines without help from equipment on the ground”
After the start of the four engines, the KC-135R aircraft taxis
out to RAF Mildenhall runway 11.

As if it’s not hard enough to get a large aircraft in close formation with the tanker aircraft,
it must be done while both aircrafts are flying in an oval track.
Tanker for strategic bombers
Initially the plan was to primarily use the KC-135’s to refuel Strategic Air Command’s (SAC) B-52 bombers and as such the KC-135 units were often placed on SAC bases with B-52 aircraft. However during the Vietnam War, the KC-135 aircraft were heavily involved in refuelling fighters, attack aircraft and bombers during the attacks on North Vietnam. Since then, air refuelling has become an integral part of virtually all combat missions flown.

Nowadays with the global war on terror which the US began after the attacks on September 11 2001, the KC-135 units have been very busy. The many fighter jets, transport planes and bombers participating in operations over Afghanistan and Iraq rotate regularly with new units from bases in the United States and they all require air fuelling on the trips back and forth. In addition to this, many combat missions also require air fuelling.

KC-135 outside USAF
Despite the KC-135 aircraft’s success as tanker aircraft in the USAF, only France has bought brand new KC-135 aircraft. Between 1963 and 1964, the French Air Force received twelve KC-135F Stratotanker aircraft.

They were primarily used to refuel the Mirage IV aircraft. One of planes crashed in 1972 and the remainder have all been upgraded to KC-135R standard now.

Between 1997 and 1998, Turkey purchased seven ex-USAF KC-135A aircraft, all of which were upgraded to KC-135R standard. Singapore Air Force bought four KC-135A aircraft in 1998 and these were all upgraded to KC-135R MPR standard. The only KC-135E models to have been exported, three examples, were sold to Chile in 2008, where they replaced old Boeing 707’s.

Five KC-135 aircraft are currently in AMARG in Arizona where they are ready to be sold to an as yet un-named buyer. In April 2013, the United States approved the sale of a unpublished number of KC-135 tanker aircraft to Israel as part of a major arms deal. Israel today uses eight old Boeing 707 aircraft and it is these that KC-135s will replace.

Although the exact numbers of aircraft is not known, it is expected that it will be the five KC-135 aircraft currently located on AMARG. These aircraft will require a major upgrade before delivery.

The future of the KC-135 Stratotanker
The replacement for the KC-135 aircraft is to be the Boeing KC-46, which, after “extra time and a penalty shoot-out” with the Airbus A330, was declared the winner of the USAF’s KC-X competition. The cost of producing the 179 aircraft that the USAF has ordered is so high that production will have to be spread out over many years.

Currently, the last example is not expected to be delivered until 2030. Logically, this means that there will still be KC-135 aircraft in service until then and by that time, the aircraft will have been in service for over seventy years.

351st ARS, 100th ARW – RAF Mildenhall
The KC-135 tanker aircraft have long been associated with RAF Mildenhall. The first unit on the base was Detachment 1, 98th Strategic Wing (SW), which in January 1970, moved from RAF Upper Heyford to RAF Mildenhall.

The unit’s primary task was to support RC-135 missions over Europe. For many years there were approximately sixteen KC-135’s temporarily stationed at RAF Mildenhall from units in the United States. Although the aircraft were dedicated to supporting the US Air Force Europe (USAFE), the aircraft were still under SAC command.

This was however changed on 1 February 1992, when the 100th Air Refuelling Wing (ARW) was activated at RAF Mildenhall, with fifteen KC-135R tankers attached to the 351st Air Refuelling Squadron (ARS). These tankers operate around the clock every day of the year.

The large reduction of USAF aircraft in Europe in the last few years has meant that the unit can concentrate more on refuelling the American transport, bomber and patrol aircraft flying to and from the US to combat zones, especially in the Middle East. In addition, the squadron is also responsible for a large part of the air refuelling training that many European air forces undertake as they do not have their own tankers.

The 351st ARS have a number of KC-135R MPR aircraft and can thus also train with air force’s using the probe-and-drogue method as well as the flying boom system, among them the Royal Danish Air Force, which regularly practice air refuelling with Mildenhall tankers.

At the beginning of 2015, the USAF announced that RAF Mildenhall was to be closed down. The MC-130H Hercules and CV-22B Osprey used by the 352nd Special Operations Group will move to the nearby RAF Lakenheath base while the 100th ARW and their KC-135R Stratotankers will most likely move to Ramstein in Germany.

The creew carries out the papers, and equipment they have had on the trip, after ending the mission, and KC-135 will then be handed over to ground personnel.
The pilots ensures that the KC-135 is in a constant soft left turn.

QUID 76
On February 6 2015, FLYMAG fortunate enough to fly on board a KC-135R from RAF Mildenhall – call sign QUID 76 – on an air refuelling mission.

BAt 06:00, the crew met to brief the mission. The briefing took place at a table in the squadron’s recreation area next to the pool table. Present were the pilot, co-pilot, two boomer’s and an instructor pilot. The briefing took place in a relaxed but professional atmosphere with the pilot starting by reviewing the day’s mission.

The original plan for the mission was to refuel six F-15E Strike Eagles from the nearby RAF Lakenheath base, but shortly before the briefing, the pilot was told that when the six F-15E had been refuelled, the remaining fuel should be given to an RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft which was on its way back to the United States.

After briefly explaining who we were refuelling, the pilot went through the mission profile, which area we would be refuelling over, what bases were available in emergency situations, the weather and a myriad of other smaller details about the mission.

After this, the co-pilot went through the refuelling in more detail and finally the boomer reviewed the refuelling operations from his point of view.

Lastly, at the end of the briefing, the boomer covered the safety procedures for the passengers who were along for the flight (FLYMAG and two press officers). When the briefing was over, all the necessary equipment was loaded on board a bus that took us to the aircraft waiting in the morning darkness.

By the aircraft, we were met by the crew chief responsible for the aircraft. He and the pilot went over the things that have been updated since the aircraft’s last flight and once the plane had been handed over to the flight crew, we boarded the aircraft through a hatch on the left side, below the cockpit. Once inside the aircraft, the two pilots started to go through the many pre-flight checks, which needed to be completed before the engines could be started.

While the pilots were busy in the cockpit, one of boomers went over the safety procedures once again and also showed where the aircraft’s emergency exits were located and how to use them. As the sun slowly rose over England, the pilots got far enough into their pre-flight checks as to allow the APU inside the aircraft to be started.

Shortly after that, over the noise of the APU, a low “bang” was heard as the first engine started up. This was quickly followed by a further three as the remaining engines were started in sequence. With all four engines up and running, the APU was turned off again and the noise level inside the cargo compartment fell to a level which was comparable to that of a conventional passenger aircraft.

The first customers
At just past 08:00 local time, approximately one hour after we arrived at the aircraft, we were ready to taxi out to the runway. After getting permission from the tower, we taxied all the way out to runway 11. As soon as the aircraft was lined up on the runway and the tower had given take off clearance, the pilots applied full power to the engines and the plane accelerated swiftly down the runway. Once airborne, the pilot’s headed towards a refuelling area called “Track 8” over the North Sea.

This was where we were to refuel the F-15E’s and the RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft. The Boomer was now busy getting ready for the first F-15E to be refuelled and he had his own checklist to go through to make sure everything worked the way it should. The short flight from Mildenhall to the refuelling area was a clear benefit to both the tanker and the aircraft to be refuelled as it cut down on time and fuel wasted going to and from the refuelling track.

At about 09:20, the first two F-15E to be refuelled arrived at the tanker. Standard procedure when refuelling aircraft arriving in formation is that they approach the tanker from below on the tanker’s left side. Once they have visual contact with the tanker, they get in formation on the tanker’s left wing.

The lead aircraft then asks the boomer for permission to move in behind the tanker. When the boomer is ready to refuel, permission is given. The receiving aircraft then slowly moves into a position behind and slightly below the tanker. Lights on the underside of the tanker guide the pilot of the receiving aircraft into the correct position.

Once the receiving aircraft is in a stable position within the correct area behind the tanker, the boomer guides the boom to the receiving aircraft refuelling receptacle. On the F-15E, this is located on the wing root on the aircraft’s left side. When the boom is in the correct position the boomer extends the fuel pipe rearwards until it locks into the receiving receptacle with an audible “klonk”. The job of actually pumping the fuel and ensuring that tanker aircraft remains in balance is the co-pilots task.

Since this was a training mission and it was not necessary to give the F-15E’s a full load of gas, the aircraft were only connected to the tanker for approximately two minutes. The boomer then released the boom and the receiver aircraft dropped slightly down and back to create a little distance with the tanker aircraft.

It then slowly moved over to the tankers right hand side and took up formation on the right wing. Here the aircraft waited until the second aircraft in the formation had been refuelled. Once both had completed their task and were sitting behind the right wing, they were cleared to leave the tanker; the two F-15E gently climbed away from the tanker.

The Weapon System Officer (WSO) ensures that the boomer hits air-refuelinghole on the first try.

The big delivery
Less than ten minutes later the next F-15E arrived for refuelling. This time the aircraft arrived alone and made a direct approach from behind and below the tanker. The boom made it hard to see anything rearwards from the observers position beside the boomer and the dark grey fighter suddenly popped up out of nowhere.

It slowly slid into position behind the tanker and the boomer guided the boom safely into the receiver aircraft’s refuelling receptacle. Again, the two aircraft were only connected for a few minutes before the boomer broke contact and the F-15E fell back and turned right to disappear, continuing on its mission.

This was followed by another lone F-15E and finally two more Strike Eagles arriving in formation. We had now refuelled the six F-15E Strike Eagles that the initial briefing called for, but there were two more aircraft in the area and they asked for permission to come up and be refuelled. This was approved and they duly arrived in formation about five minutes later to receive their fuel.

Now we only needed to refuel the RC-135 Rivet Joint. The RC-135 is one of the many variants of the C-135 aircraft family that are in service with the USAF. The plane arrived at the tanker around fifteen minutes after the last two F-15E had departed, coming in from behind and well below. The RC-135 approached slowly whilst it climbed into the correct position behind the tanker.

The connection
After several minutes of careful manoeuvring the RC-135 aircraft was in close formation behind the KC-135R aircraft and the boomer guided the boom down into the refuelling receptacle located just above the cockpit.

The plan was to give the RC-135 aircraft all the fuel we could spare without leaving the tanker short, but even with the high fuel transfer speed, it took about ten minutes to complete the full refuelling.

In these ten minutes, the pilot on board the RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft kept it in tight formation with tanker aircraft and made sure that it did not go outside the boom’s range of motion, a very difficult task for such a large aircraft.

When the refuelling was over and the boom detached from the RC-135, it slowly fell back and downwards before flying away, the procedure being that the fighter jets leave the tanker upwards and large aircraft leave it downwards.

With the last refuelling over, we turned back towards RAF Mildenhall and around 11:30, we landed back on runway 11 approximately 3.5 hours after take off. The pilot taxied the aircraft back to the stand and the engines were powered down. Once the ground crew had secured the aircraft, the crew hatch was opened and the boomer lowered the ladder down so that we could climb out into the cold clear winter air.

After the crew signed the aircraft over to the ground crew chief again, we drove back to the squadron building where the crew then de-briefed the full mission.

FLYMAG would like to thank A1C Kyla M Gifford from Mildenhall Public Affairs Office for having made the flight with QUID 76 possible and the crew aboard QUID 76, Captain Dan Ouper, 1st Lt. Adan Lubin, SRA Kyle Cleis and SRA Amy Lizauckas for all of their help and support in producing this article.
“In these ten minutes, the pilot on board the
RC-135 aircraft kept it in tight formation with tanker aircraft and made sure that it did not go outside the boom’s range of motion”
The large RC-135 Rivet Joint has contact with the tanker aircraft.
The aircraft has started to get the very last jet fuel, which QUID 76 has available.