Eight combat helicopters belonging to four different air arms have taken part in a multinational mission over Kosovo. And here are some interesting shots.
The pictures in this article were taken on Jul. 12, by Cpt. Rory J. McCarthy, a UH-60 pilot who flew aboard an Mi-171 during a multinational multi-helicopter mission which included two Croatian Mi 171sh, one Swiss AS-532 Cougar, one Slovenian AS-532 Cougar, and four U.S. UH-60/A Blackhawk choppers.
The mission was flown to prepare the aircrews to operate with troops on board, to fulfill a tactical exercise requirement KFOR, the NATO-led international peacekeeping force, has in Kosovo.
As a part of the NATO Multinational Task Force, KFOR helicopter detachments support a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement Kosovo wide. On order, Croatian, Slovenian, Swiss and U.S. helicopters work together to move 90 Crowd Riot Control (CRC) equipped troops Kosovo wide on short notice.
In addition to troop transport, select helicopters are equipped for MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), fire fighting, airborne and SPIES (Special Patrol Infiltration and Exfiltration System) operations.
Saber Strike is a U.S. Army Europe-led security cooperation exercise which focuses on the three Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia; Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014 is an annual multinational maritime exercise held in the Baltics with assets from 13 participating nations.
This means there’s a lot of assets operating in the Baltics these days. That’s the reason why Moscow decided to conduct surprise training of first strike forces, marines, paratroopes and bombers, deploying several aircraft to the Kaliningrad region, close to the NATO war games.
The following video shows some of these assets, including Su-34 Fullback attack planes and A-50 AWACS aircraft (one of those was intercepted by NATO Baltic Air Policing QRA on Jun. 11) as well as SA-9-N Tor, the navalized variant of the all-weather low to medium altitude, short-range surface-to-air missile system used to counter planes, choppers, PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and short-range ballistic missiles.
H/T to Steppen Wolf for sending the link over to us.
The RPV, flew from the airbase in southeastern Sicily, in the Mediterranean (from where the huge drone conduct daily missions over Africa), to Northern European countries, including Norway, to showcase the capability of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system to route one of its planned five Global Hawks across the busy European airspace.
Indeed, one of the goals of UV 2014 was to prepare the introduction of the AGS capability and to improve data sharing with other ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) systems provided by various NATO and partner nations.
The Global Hawk flew to Norway, cruising at more than 50,000 feet, well above commercial airliners testing the effectiveness of existing ATC procedures to ensure seamless integration of High Altitude Long Endurance UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) within the existing aviation framework.
Taking place from May 19 to 29, UV14 saw the participation personnel from 18 NATO nations and three partner nations; 2,000 people attended the exercise that tripled its size since the edition held in 2012.
The drills gave participating arms the opportunity to test their latest ISR equipment and enhance their ability to use, fuse and share data gathered by national and allied assets in a scenario tailored on most recent operational experiences (especially ISAF operation in Afghanistan).
What makes this kind of exercise particularly useful is the fact that they are quite realistic: surface-to-air missile systems are turned on and active GPS jamming is admitted; something almost impossible to do in most parts of the world, because of the interferences with commercial aviation.
Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov passed through the English Channel recently. But the Dutch Navy had no ships available for escort duties.
In spite of a commitment to the NATO alliance, several years of budget cuts undermined the ability of European countries to perform routine duties, as providing escort to Russian vessels as they sail close to the territorial waters.
According to the Dutch reporters and other local media, “the Russians usually prefer to go around Ireland on the North Atlantic Ocean to avoid other maritime traffic. The journey plotted through the narrow waters can be seen as a typical show of force on behalf of the Russians.”
The Royal Navy dispatched a modern air-defense destroyer, the HMS Dragon, to shadow the Kuznetsov but, as the task force moved up towards the North Sea, it would be a task of the Royal Netherlands Navy to escort the Russians.
“The Royal Netherlands Navy already had made public its spotting of the Russians a few days earlier, when the HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën (English: The Seven Provinces) had picked it up on radar. But by the time the Kuznetsov arrived in the Dutch Exclusive Economic Zone the Seven Provinces had gone on its way for duties in Somali waters and no other ships were at hand for escort duties” de Vries and Veenstra explain.
Unfortunately, the Dutch have retired their fleet of P-3C Orion aircraft in 2002. In the following years, the Dutch Navy Air Arm, that once operated both Maritime Patrol Aircraft and Lynx helicopter, was disbanded.
Ten NH-90 helicopters, operated by the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC), have replaced 24 Lynx choppers. But helicopters are not the best assets for long range shadowing of enemy vessels.
Image credit: Lieuwe de Vries
“Instead of deploying a suitable response the Netherlands Coastguard was asked to deploy one of its Dornier 228 aircraft. Though capable in its intended role the aircraft lacks any equipment to gather worthwhile electronic or photographic intelligence.”
Obviously, the inability to provide a proper escort to the Russian Navy is far from being a surprise. Since the 1980s, the Dutch Navy has drastically reduced its force: from 56, to 23 ships; from 43 aircraft, to none.
The incident, more embarrassing than other, has only highlighted a widespread situation among NATO partners, most of which are quite far from the Treaty’s target 2 percent of the GDP on defense spending (with the Netherlands around 1.3 percent). In the same days Russia has become more aggressive in East Europe.
Polish Fulcrums and British Eurofighter Typhoons provide Baltic Air Policing from Lithuania.
The RAF and the Polish Air Force have taken over the four-month rotation of Baltic Air Policing since the beginning of the month.
The task, usually undertaken with four fighter planes, aims to provide air defense for those NATO member states that have no fighter jets of their own to secure their airspaces: Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.
The RAF has committed to the operation four Typhoon FGR4 aircraft, whereas the Polish Air Force has deployed four Mig-29 Fulcrum fighters. Both contingents operate from Siauliai Air Base, Lithunia, where the two air forces occupy areas located at the opposite ends of the runway.
On May 15, Mig-29 jets scrambled to intercept two Russian Air Force Su-27s over the Baltic Sea.
RAF pilots taking part in the Baltic Air Policing have already flown QRA missions from the UK, as pilot Flight Lieutenant Tim Pye, a member of 3(Fighter) Squadron who are the lead squadron on the deployment, explained on the RAF website:
“My first interception was of a pair of Russian Tu-22 Backfire bombers approaching UK airspace which was both tense and exciting at the same time. I also scrambled against two Russian Navy Su-27 Flankers launched from an aircraft carrier but on that occasion the fighters turned away as we approached.”