The third edition of Czech-led international Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) exercise Ample Strike kicked off in the Czech Republic this week. For the next three week, no less than seventeen Allied and Partnership for Peace nations train their JTACs, aircrew and ground units in realistic, complex and demanding scenarios.
Ample Strike is aimed at providing realistic training for controllers on the ground in a combat environment. “It offers the perfect venue for effective collaboration between air and ground, forces preparing them to respond to joint missions whenever needed,” said Czech Air Force Commander Jaromir Sebesta. The exercise continues the tradition of similar exercise Ramstein Rover in Germany.
Taking part are a total of 34 aircraft from Lithuania, Slovenia, Germany, Poland, Hungary and the US, plus troops from even more countries. The US sends B-1B and B-52H long range bombers, operating from Fairford airbase in the UK. Most aircraft operate from airbases within the Czech Republic.
Novelty Adding to exercise complexity and a novelty for Ample Strike, are air-to-air refuelling missions during tactical strike and bomber missions. US Air Force KC-135R tankers will refuel
not only the German Tornado jets, Czech and Hungarian Gripen aircraft, but also the US strategic bombers.
Last year, Ample Strike achieved a record 1600 control runs, allowing JTACs to keep up their skills of controlling aircraft in support forces on the ground. In 2016, Ample Strike is not about exceeding this number, but about providing even more complex and challenging integrated scenarios.
A US Air Force B-52 bomber has crashed in Guam in the Indian Ocean on Thursday 19 May, US authorities confirmed. All seven crewmembers escaped, but the aircraft was consumed by fire.
The crash happened as the aircraft took off from Guam’s 12,000 feet runway. According to a base official, the bomber only carried inert munitions when things went wrong. The aircraft’s homebase in the US was Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Guam has been a long time deployment airfield for US bombers operating over Asia.
About 15,000 troops, including 2,000 of non-NATO member Sweden, 40 aircraft and helicopters, about a thousand vehicles and several ships and boats are currently kicking a** in Northern and Central Norway. Exercise Cold Response included the taking of the normally peaceful village of Namsos, situated on the shores of beautiful fjords.
The 7th edition of the multinational winter war exercise hosted by Norway brings units from mainly NATO countries together, to show what they can as “bad” and “good” force against each other. To train for a possible real war scenario and to show NATO’s current strange “friend” Russia that the North American-European alliance still can.
US Air Force Boeing B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers are soon to deploy into Swedish airspace for the first time on an operational training mission which involves the release of a weapons load, according to sources within the Swedish Armed Forces. On Saturday 13 June a pair of “Buffs” will drop sea mines in the Baltic Sea near the Swedish Southeast coast.
The drop is an operational training in covering the flanks of an amphibious operation. According to the plan the B-52s are to fly non-stop from the US and return back home. The bombers’ deployment is part of Baltops 2015, the yearly multinational NATO / Partnership for Peace exercise that will take place from 5 to 20 June this year.
Approx. location (released to the general public) of the planned B-52 sea mine drop on 13 June 2015
Seventeen nations will participate in Baltops 2015, bringing together 4,500 troops, 60 surface vessels and boats, about 50 combat aircraft and helicopters plus a Polish Navy submarine. The operational area will take place in Swedish, Danish, Polish and international waters and air space. Many of the participating aircraft will fly from their homebases. Air sorties will include reconnaissance, in-flight refuelling, close air support, air combat and air-sea cooperation.
The B-52 sea mine drop is an interesting choice. During the Cold War NATO and Sweden had a secret plan to insert a large US Marine Corps force into the Skåne region of Sweden, in case of a Russian invasion of Western Europe. The Marines were to safeguard the Öresund (The Sound) – the narrow shipping lane between Malmö (Sweden) and Copenhagen (Denmark) that gives entry control to the Baltic Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.
Recently the US and NATO have grown more close, both military and politically, with non-NATO members Sweden and Finland in an attempt to future-secure the Baltic Sea area while the Russian military is increasing its military projection there.
In a show of force that gave fighter jocks of allied nations some fun the US Air Force sent four of its B-52H Stratofortress bombers on a long mission over the Arctic and North Sea this week. The mission appears very similar to what the Russian Air Force is doing with its long-range strategic bombers and gave the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 Hornets, the Royal Air Force’s Typhoons and the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons an excellent opportunity to intercept planes of a more friendly nature.
UPDATE 7 April | See here and here for great shots of Dutch F-16s intercepting the Stratofortress.
All over Europe Bears, Backfires and other Russian winged hardware has been causing hundreds of intercepts over the last 12 months, like by RAF Typhoons in January, with the Russian planes sometimes even disturbing civilian air traffic, according to NATO and Scandinavian aviation authorities.
With the pairs of “Buffs” from Barksdale and Minot air force bases, the RCAF, RAF and RNLAF got some good training opportunity. “The bomber crews flying the North Sea route participated in dissimilar air intercept manoeuvers with fighter aircraft flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force, the U.K.’s Royal Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.”
“In addition to conducting dissimilar air intercept maneuvers with Royal Canadian Air Force fighters, bomber crews on the Arctic leg of the mission transited around the North Pole, providing the crews invaluable training in polar navigation,” Senior Airman Benjamin Raughton of the 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs writes.