Czech, Hungarian and Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripens fighters show themselves from every angle during exercise Lion Effort 2015 in the Czech Republic these days. In-flight pictures are a top priority for many. However, not all are aware of the effort and preparations that goes into air-to-air footage.
This photo shoot was attended by a total of five Gripen jets – one Czech and two Hungarian and Swedish each – as well as one Czech Air Force L-159 ALCA and a CASA C-295.
Preparations begin long before the aircraft are launched. It takes a lot of coordination for the fighter pilots to join up with a Czech Air Force CASA C-295 transport aircraft from Prague-Kbely airbase, carrying the photographers and their equipment – on a space available basis.
Planning the mission involves a pilot briefing to decide which jets will be chosen for the photo session. Subsequently the choreography of the birds is coordinated with the photographers. Together with the pilots they arrange formations that allow unique and visually interesting aspects.
When everything is sorted out and agreed, the participants – jet and transport aircraft crews, the photographers – have to wait for their take off times and hope that the weather will hold.
The top priority is always on the safety of all involved. Various other factors need to be taken into account such as the speed, positioning and altitude of the fighters and the photo platform. Therefore pilots have designed each passing manoeuvre and brought it to perfection – all pilots exactly know their role in the photo shoot.
Once airborne the CASA and Gripen pilots maintain radio contact permanently to handle any challenges that may occur. Everyone involved – the jet pilots and the transport aircraft crews as well as ground controllers and ground handling crews – did an excellent professional job. And as you can see for yourself, the results show.
Lion Effort continues until 23 May, when an airshow at Čáslav celebrates the end of the exercise as well as ten years of flying the Gripen in the Czech Republic.
© 2015 Tomáš Maruščák
Featured image (top): Looking down on three Saab Gripens and the yellow rapeseed fields below. (Image © Martin Král)