The Aviationist was invited to the media day of the last Tactical Leadership Programme Flying Course of 2021 held in Los Llanos Air Base in Albacete, Spain. And here’s what we learnt there.
The last TLP’s Flying Course of the year, FC 2021-4, started on Nov. 15 and ended on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. The 3-week course, saw the participation of a wide variety of aircraft, including the Italian Air Force F-2000 and Italian Navy AV-8B+ Harrier II, the French Air Force Mirage 2000D and 2000-5F, German Air Force Tornado IDS and ECR as well as Eurofighters, the Spanish EF-18-M and the Hellenic Air Force F-16Cs. As usual, the FC was also supported by a certain number of other assets, such as the the NATO E-3 AWACS, which provided Airborne Early Warning and Airspace Management and Control to the packages involved in the various missions, as well as the GFD Learjet 35, involved in EW (Electronic Warfare) training sorties.
Dealing with the rotary wing, an SH-60 from the Spanish Navy and an NH-90 from the 48th Wing, both with their corresponding EZAPAC (Escuadrón de Zapadores Paracaidistas) extraction equipment, were also involved in certain missions of the course.
Our contributors David Parody and Alessandro Fucito took part in the TLP FC 21-4 media day on Dec. 1, 2021, and took the images you can find in this article.
Overall, a total of around 1,000 people took part in the TLP’s FC: 47 of these were graduate of the course (including 36 pilots, 6 intel officers and 5 air traffic controllers).
This course saw some really interesting as well as somewhat unusual participants in the form of F-35B of the U.S. Marine Corps and the RAF.
Although not the first time that F-35s have taken part in TLP (first occurred in 2018, when the TLP FC was held at Amendola Air Base, Italy) it was the first time that carrier based and remotely located F-35s did. The jets were among the eight F-35B of the RAF 617 Squadron from RAF Marham deployed aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth along with 10 F-35B of the U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers, based at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona. HMSQE is on her way back to the UK from a 28-week deployment – dubbed CSG21 (Carrier Strike Group 2021) – that brought the British aircraft carrier to the troubled waters of the Indo-Pacific region as the flagship of the largest naval and air task force under British command since the Falklands war. As you will probably remember, a British F-35B embarked aboard the HMSQE crashed off the carrier after a failed launch on Nov. 17, 2021.
The F-35s had disembarked from the QE and landed in NAS Rota, in Southern Spain prior to returning back to the U.S. The Marine Corps F-35s participated in the TLP on one day with four sorties based from Rota, to where they returned.
The RAF/RN F-35s were due to participate the following day but bad weather and delays to the commencement of the day’s exercise saw them unable to physically take part. However, this was made up through the use of the MACE simulator which has only recently been installed at Los Llanos air base. Planning for event was also hampered by communication issues between the base and carrier as the latter was out in the Mediterranean and stable comms was proving challenging.
Commandants explained that the base has seen a number of infrastructure improvements that will enable more F-35s to deploy to TLP in the years to come as both the number of airframes increase as will do the participating nations acquiring the airframe. One of the key pillars of the TLP is the integration of 4th and 5th generation aircraft and technologies and with so many ageing aircraft types at this TLP, this would indeed be a major challenge.
The Aviationist would like to thank Virginia García, PA to the TLP, Manfred Reudenbach, Public Affairs Officer at NATO Allied Air Command, and all the TLP team for the support provided to our contributors at Los Llanos Air Base, before and during the FC 21-4.