Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

TriLateralEx 2015 Final Report: F-22s, Typhoons and Rafales prepare for Future Air Warfare

The exercise featured the cutting edge air dominance aircraft in service today.

The inaugural Trilateral Exercise held Dec. 2-18 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) in Virginia not only represented a visible component of the collaboration between Allies, it also provided the back drop for the leadership of the respective Air Forces to lay out future challenges and direction.

The United States Air Force (USAF) F-22 Raptor, the Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon, the French Air Force (FAF) Dassault Rafale (Blue Air), were complemented by the USAF E-3G Block 40/45 AWACS, and supplemented (Red Air) by the USAF T-38 Talon and F-15E Strike Eagle.

French Armee De L'Air Rafale C taxis to launch during the TriLateral Exercise at JBLE.

French Armee De L’Air Rafale C taxis to launch during the TriLateral Exercise at JBLE.

Colonel Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group based at JBLE commented that the exercise was “an unprecedented opportunity. The three premier fighter aircraft of these nations had not previously trained together, and it was great to train with them, rather than just meet them in the theater (AOR).”

RAF 3 Sqn EU Typhoon FGR4 readies for launch during the TriLateral Exercise at JBLE.

RAF 3 Sqn EU Typhoon FGR4 readies for launch during the TriLateral Exercise at JBLE.

Contrary to popular thought, the exercise had little to do with air warfare taking place today over Syria and Iraq.

Colonel Michel Friedling, Chief of the Air Force planning bureau within the French Ministry of Defense noted Our role is to think beyond what is going on right now so we can maintain air superiority in future air operations. Our job is to imagine the way we can operate together in a contested environment, for the next decade.”

RAF EU Typhoon taxis to launch during the TriLateral Exercise at JBLE.

RAF EU Typhoon taxis to launch during the TriLateral Exercise at JBLE.

Progress made since the TriLateral Initiative was announced in 2010 has the United Kingdom, France and the United States featuring regular officers not just at the exchange level as pilots, but as regular appointees in the strategic steering groups. Allied steering of strategy demonstrates a tremendous degree of trust and speaks of the closeness and importance of these relationships.

French Armee De L'Air Rafale C taxis to launch during the TriLateral Exercise at JBLE.

French Armee De L’Air Rafale C taxis to launch during the TriLateral Exercise at JBLE.

Leadership consistently made the point that the TriLateral Exercise was in many ways a counterpoint to that type of air warfare experienced in the past 15 to 25 years that has shown no substantial threat to allied air dominance in a theater of war.

General Mark Welsh III, Chief of Staff USAF noted, “I think the big benefit of the exercise is that these three air forces have capability that many air forces don’t. This exercise places our air crews, maintenance crews, intelligence support teams in a scenario that is more demanding than the ones we have recently seen around the world. As such it prepares us for a future operating environment that may be more difficult than what we have been fighting in, and is really an important step to refocusing on that full spectrum fight that we have not been involved with in recent years but is always a potential in the future.”

French Armee De L'Air Rafale C taxis to launch during the TriLateral Exercise at JBLE.

French Armee De L’Air Rafale C taxis to launch during the TriLateral Exercise at JBLE.

In a similar vein of thought, Chief of the Air Staff (RAF), Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford noted that in many ways, due to the operational pace and the type of uncontested air warfare the RAF has been involved in “the higher end skills to deal with air warfare in the contested space have been reduced, and they are now working a defined program to bring baseline skills up.”

FrAF Dassualt Rafale launches from JBLE during the TriLateral Exercise.

FrAF Dassualt Rafale launches from JBLE during the TriLateral Exercise.

More specifically General Frank Gorenc, Commander USAFE noted, “the exercise is focused on utilizing the capabilities of the aircraft to penetrate Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2AD) environments, places where potential adversaries have taken what are very complex, very capable surface to air missile systems putting them together in a way that they are layered. This provides a redundancy in the same air space with the express purpose of making sure that whatever area we are talking about cannot be attacked from the air.”

Some of the most effective and sophisticated systems that support A2AD are the Russian S-300 and S-400 air defense systems. These systems (and like) are proliferating around the globe at an alarming rate. While not being specific in naming the systems or potential theaters, General Mark Welsh noted that while there may be “10 integrated Air Defense systems in the world today, they anticipate that there will be 25 such systems deployed globally in 10 years.” The Air Force must be able to “dismantle them, create lanes – until then, the military cannot can’t perform effective land and sea operations.”

One can certainly see the three featured aircraft and the incoming F-35 (and additional weapons systems like the EA-18 Growler) playing a critical part in “creating lanes” through an area featuring advanced A2AD.

To those ends the 5th generation Raptor, and 4.5 generation Typhoon and Rafale took to the skies multiple times a day to refine Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs). Primary objectives included simply learning to communicate effectively, and then utilizing each platforms strengths to defeat A2AD environments.

USAF F-22 Raptor taxis past line up RAF Typhoons at the inaugural TriLateral exercise JBLE.

USAF F-22 Raptor taxis past line up RAF Typhoons at the inaugural TriLateral exercise JBLE.

General H. Carlisle, Commander Air Combat Command USAF noted that they are “three great aircraft – together they can do so much more than they can individually because they bring strengths that complement each other and make the whole force that much better.”

To assist in the realism, F-15E Strike Eagles (Seymour Johnson AFB, NC) and T-38 Talon adversary aircraft (JLBE) flew as adversaries to the missions. The missions also featured the completely upgraded and recently deployed E-3G Block 40/45 Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) and various tanker aircraft.

One of the clear messages of the exercise was the commitment to leverage and maintain a technological edge in the future Air Force. Technology will be critical to address the full spectrum threats in a given theater; Surface to Air missile systems, Air to Air platforms, Electronic Warfare, Cyberattack and more.

General Mark Welsh noted, “For the last 15 years we’ve been focused on an environment that is very permissive and as a result the legacy systems we’ve had in our air force that made us great for the last 50 years have been very successful. We must modernize our air force so that we’re great for the next 50 years, and unfortunately there’s nothing operationally today that is driving that modernization except threats that could emerge. What’s very clear in lessons learned from this exercise is that the technical capability that we bring to the fight will continue to drive success or failure. Air forces that fall behind the technology curve will fail, and we can’t let that happen.”

The cost of deploying sophisticated and technologically advanced systems is high (F-22, F-35, LRS-B) and requires a careful balance to ensure adequate force size is maintained. General Mark Welsh commented to that, “we have to maintain a balance of capability, capacity and readiness. The price of systems has prohibited us from buying all top end equipment over time. Quantity does have a quality all its own in this business, especially if you are expected to respond to multiple places and we are a global Air Force. And so we are going to have to look at a high low mix of capability. But we must modernize the high-end capability and then reduce cost in providing capability for the low threat spectrum. We’re going to have to do that. And we have to be allowed to divest some of the capability that made us great in order to invest in the things that will make us great. We have to be able to do that. There are some tough decisions that have to be made, or our policy makers need to decide how they want to use their instrument of national power in a different way then we have been using it.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford referenced the United Kingdom’s recent political response to the same dynamic, “my own Air Force is now smaller arguably than it’s been in its service history, but it’s also I would argue in so many ways the most potent that it’s ever been. And that balance between investment and financial challenges of investment in technology and pure numbers is one that you’ve only got to look at this recent Defense & Security Review in the UK to see what the British Government were able to do. They recognized that there was an aspect when it came to numbers and we are adding two additional Typhoon Squadrons to the mix and additional F-35 Lightning’s brought into the mix, that weren’t in the plan. They have looked at the balance between money available and threat and they have decided to invest arguably for the first time in some time in the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and the British Army.”

The value of the face to face interaction among flight crew, engineers, intelligence officers and support teams during the TriLateral Exercise was recognized. Communication methods, operational practices and tactical approaches were refined between aircraft and the respective air forces. It is anticipated that there will be regular TriLateral exercises in the future, some of which will likely be held in the UK and France.

Inaugural TriLateral Exercise at JBLE with Rafale, Raptor & Typhoon

Inaugural TriLateral Exercise at JBLE with Rafale, Raptor & Typhoon

General Antoine Crux, the French Air Force Inspector General commented on the importance of the exercise, “this exercise is very important for us for we are preparing not only for war we have been fighting and have fought for years but also for the war where for example air superiority will not be granted. So we need to be sure that we will be ready to operate together very quickly on day one, as soon as our political leaders will ask.” It appears that the exercise has been very successful, and one can anticipate that when participating crews arrive in a future theater they will be much better prepared to work as one to defeat whatever threat awaits.

Special Thanks to the PAO of the 633 ABW, and entire associated team. Present, General H. Carlisle, Commander Air Combat Command USAF; General Antoine Crux, the French Air Force Inspector General; General Mark Welsh III, Chief of Staff USAF; Chief of the Air Staff (RAF), Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford; General Frank Gorenc, Commander USAFE.

Todd Miller is an avid photographer and contributor to a number of Aviation media groups. Utilizing www.flyfastandlow.com as a personal “runway” it is Todd’s goal to reflect the intensity and realism of the military aviation mission, as well as the character and commitment of the military aviation professional.

 

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Stunning Photos Show the F-22 Raptor training with the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale in the U.S.

NATO’s three most advanced combat planes flying together during exercise.

The photographs in this post were taken recently in the skies near Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.

They show a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, a Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon and a French Air Force Dassault Rafale, flying together during the inaugural Trilateral anti-access/area denial exercise scheduled for Dec. 2 – 18.

Hosted by the 1st FW (Fighter Wing), the East Coast drills focus on integrated operations with the aim to gain an understanding of the required tactics, techniques, procedures as well as logistics and support associated with fighting in a highly-contested scenario made of layered long-range air defenses.

To make things even more realistic, the exercise does not only feature the NATO’s premiere combat aircraft but also a wide variety of supporting assets: along with the “Bad Guys” (U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles and the Langley-based T-38 Talons that always train against the Raptor stealth fighter) there are U.S. E-3 AWACS as well as U.S. and French Air Force tankers.

According to U.S. Air Force Col. Pete Fesler, the commander of the 1st FW: “The RAF and FrAF are our vital strategic partners and allies in the current fight against extremism, and will be in any foreseeable future conflict,” said Fesler. “The trilateral exercise gives us an opportunity to train together in realistic counter-air and strike scenarios. This training is critical to ensure that we have day-one interoperability for future contingency operations.”

Interestingly, whilst the USAF Raptor, the British Typhoon and the French Rafale multi-role combat planes train in the U.S. to gain air superiority in a modern A2/AD (anti-access/area denial environment), the same three kinds of aircraft are currently involved in a real war against ISIS in Syria and they daily operate well inside a Russian super-MEZ (Missile Engagement Zone) created with the deployment of the Moskva guided-missile cruiser (with its S-300F) off Latakia and the installation an S-400 Triumf battery at Hmeymim airbase: perhaps an interesting real-world scenario to test at least a few of those procedures studied in the permissive skies over Virginia.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Here are some interesting details about RAF Tornados first air strike on ISIS in Syria

RAF Tornados, supported by Voyager tanker and a Reaper UAV, have extended the UK’s airstrikes to Syria.

Hours after the UK parliament approved to extend the airstrikes to include Syria, Royal Air Force Tornado attack planes, deployed to Akrotiri, Cyprus, flew their first raid on terrorist targets inside Syria, early in the morning on Dec. 3.

The Tornados, supported by a Voyager tanker and a Reaper drone, dropped their Paveway IV guided bombs against six targets on an oilfield at Omar, “one of the ISIS’s largest and most important oilfields,” according to the MoD.

The six British “Tonkas” committed to Operation Shader flew their first mission against ISIS on Sept. 27, 2014 destroying the first ISIS target, a “technical” (an armed pick-up truck), in Iraq, on Sept. 30. Since then the RAF Tornado jets, have carried out hundreds of strike (and armed reconnaissance) missions against Daesh targets.

Although the payload may vary according to the type of mission the RAF Tornado GR4s have often carried a mixed load out with a single rack of three Brimstones and two Paveway IV 226kg bombs along with the Rafael Litening III targeting pod.

The Brimstone, is a fire-and-forget anti-armour missile, optimized for use against fast-moving platforms, first fielded during 2008 after an urgent operational requirement and used on the RAF Harriers during operations over Afghanistan.

With a warhead of 9 kg and a range of 7.5 miles, the Brimstones are an extensive redevelopment of the AGM-114 Hellfire and can be used on fast jets, helicopters and UAVs. They use a millimeter wave (mmW) radar seeker with a semi-active laser (SAL) that enables final guidance to the target by either the launching platform or another plane, and are perfect to destroy a vehicle with very low collateral damage risk, and an accuracy of about 1 – 2 meters. That’s why these small guided missiles have become the RAF weapons of choice since the Air War over Libya back in 2011.

Interestingly, one of the 8 RAF Tornados deployed at Akrotiri could be regularly tracked online during its transit from Cyprus to Iraq via Israel, Jordan, accompanied by a Voyager tanker: the example #ZA556 (the only “visible” aircraft in a formation of at least two planes) can be often spotted on Flightardar24.com as it flies into Israel, then into the Jordanian airspace before turning its transponder off to enter the Iraqi airspace.

Here are some of the latest logs:

With the air strikes now covering both Iraq and Syria, the UK has reinforced its contingent at Akrotiri with 10 Tornados and 6 (+3 spares) Eurofighter Typhoon, that have arrived in Cyprus on Dec. 3. The Typhoon FGR4 multirole planes (with their squadron markings stripped off..) belong to the Tranche 2: they can drop Paveway LGBs, but neither the Brimstones nor Storm Shadows yet.

RAF Marham depart Syria

Image credit: Crown Copyright

 

Britain offers France use of airbase in Cyprus to support air war on ISIS in Syria

French combat aircraft may use RAF Akrotiri base, in Cyprus, to launch air strikes on IS.

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, Britain has offered France the use of its airbase in Cyprus, strategically located on the island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Syria, to support air strikes on ISIS.

Primarily, the base is going to act as a reserve diversion airfield for the jets operating from the French  nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle that has been operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, from where it launched the first raids against ISIS earlier this week.

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said:

“This offer is another demonstration of our solidarity with our French allies. It is right that we do all we can to help them hit ISIL harder. Meanwhile, we will continue to strike this vile organization in Iraq and build the case for extending those strikes to Syria.”

At the moment, a dozen French Rafale and Mirage 2000 jets are supporting Operation Chammal from Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan and Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE. This component is supplemented by another 20 jets based on the CDG aircraft carrier, operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

According to The Telegraph, David Cameron claimed that Great Britain is going to do “all in its power”, supporting France in the struggle against ISIS, in a response to the Paris acts of terror. The proposal emerged after the meeting of the British PM David Cameron and Francois Hollande, the French President

The RAF has been using its Cyprus airbase to conduct airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq since September 2014. Tanker and reconnaissance aircraft are also stationed there.

Interestingly, this is not the first time the French are using the British Airbase in Cyprus in cooperation with the Royal Air Force. During the Suez Crisis, in 1956, the air forces of both countries were stationed in Cyprus, launching air strikes against Egypt and flying sorties, the aim of which was to neutralize the Egyptian Air Force.

In 2012, Akrotiri airbase was “targeted” by Syrian Su-24 Fencer attack jets launched by Assad to probe the local air defenses. As we commented back then, buzzing the enemy airspace to test its reaction time or actively disturbing the enemy training activities is not rare. Much rare are actual engagements, like the one that saw a Russian Su-24 shot down by TuAF F-16 yesterday along the Turkey-Syria border).

Image Credit: Dassault Aviation

Cool night pictures show RAF fast jets participating in Ex. Trident Juncture 2015 from Spanish airbase

The Royal Air Force fighter jets have taken part in Trident Juncture 2015.

As the following unique night photos show, most of the RAF fast jets involved in the largest NATO exercise since 2002 were based at Albacete, Spain which became temporary home to 1(F) Squadron and 31 Squadron for the duration of the Trident Juncture 2015 3-week exercise.
Tornado RAF 2

Noteworthy, the RAF fast jet crews performed day and night sorties in a range of scenarios varying from leading offensive strike packages of 40 aircraft, to night combat search and rescue supported by US Air Force CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.
Typhoon RAF 1
The Tornado GR4s from 31 Squadron and the Typhoon FGR4s from 1(F) Squadron have also had the chance to work together during several missions of the drill: throughout these mixed formation sorties in fact, the Typhoons protected the Tornados on the way into a target and then both the machines simulated dropping Paveway IV precision bombs. The Typhoons then switched back to the air-to-air role to fight their way out.
Tornado RAF 1
During Trident Juncture 3000 flying sorties were flown, 1,200 in Spain alone, where 120 aircraft were spread over seven air bases.  The aim of Trident Juncture 2015, which took place from Oct. 3 to Nov. 6, was training the troops of the NATO Response Force (NRF) and other Allied forces, to increase their readiness to respond to a wide range of challenges.
Typhoon RAF 3

Image credit: Crown Copyright