In December, French Dassault Rafales and British Eurofighter Typhoons meet US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors during exercise Trilaterale Initiative (TEI) at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. The three fighter jet types will operate alongside eachother for the first time during this exercise, which lasts until 18 December.
The French contingent arrived at Langley this week after an Atlantic crossing that orginated at Saint Dizier airbase in France. They brought six Rafales, two CF-135 Stratotankers and 150 personnel.
US Air Force F-15 Eagles and T-38 Talons will serve as adversaries during Trilaterale Initiative, while E-3 AWACS and KC-135 tanker aircraft provide support. First orientation flights for the exercise started on Friday 4 December.
The Baltic states provided the stage again for NATO exercise BRTE on Tuesday 29 September. It’s training on the job for Hungarian Saab Gripen and German Eurofighter Typhoon crews, who are on in the Baltics foremost for Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties. Finnish F-18 Hornet and Swedish Saab Gripen pilots also played are part in BRTE.
The abbreviation stands for Baltic Region Training Events, a series of military flying exercises conducted over the Baltics and Baltic Sea. The exercise is meant to keep QRA-crews on their toes. The Hungarians protect the Baltics from intruders from Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania, while the German do so from Ämari airbase in Estonia.
Today’s exercise focussed on Siauliai, with a Lithuanian C-27J Spartan simulating a loss of communications (COMLOSS) in Estonian airspace. German Eurofighter Typhoons launched to intercept and identify the transport aircraft and then hand it over to the Hungarian Saab Gripen jets, which escorted it back to Šiauliai. Also involved were a NATO Boeing E-3 AWACS and a US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker.
The first NATO Boeing E-3 AWACS to be retired set off for its final flight on Tuesday 23 June. The aircraft took off from Geilenkirchen airbase, its home for over 30 years, and headed for Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. Once there, the aircraft will be placed in storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, better known as AMARG.
The final flight involved a final air-to-air refuelling off the coast of the US state of New England. At AMARG, re-usable parts worth roughly 35 million EUR are removed from the aircraft. The E-3 will then remain in storage for three years, after which it is likely to be scrapped. See the final landing at Davis Monthan here.
The aircraft selected to retire (tail number LX-N90449) was scheduled for a 15 million EUR Depot Level Maintenance (DLM) inspection mid-July 2015. Instead, the decision was made to retire the AWACS.
During its operational NATO career the airframe gathered well over 22,000 flight hours, operating out of 21 different countries. It flew its very final operational mission on 13 May 2015.
The E-3 is one of the few NATO AWACS aircraft not to receive a cockpit upgrade by Boeing. The upgrade involves a part glass cockpit, but is limited to 14 aircraft. With the departure of LX-N90449, a total of 16 AWACS aircraft are left at Geilenkirchen.
With the delivery of the second aircraft, the French Armée de l’Air has reached Initial operating capability (IOC) of its upgraded Boeing E-3F AWACS aircraft. Operational tests and evaluations are complete, said Boeing on 20 May. The upgrade is part of a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) between the French Defense Procurement and Technology Agency (Direction générale de l’armement – DGA) and the US government.
In July 2014, the French received their first upgraded E-3 back from Boeing. As the prime contractor, Boeing provides hardware, software, engineering and quality assurance support. Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance, a Boeing subcontractor on the project, is upgrading the electrical, mechanical and structural systems and mission hardware on the aircraft.
France has four AWACS to monitor national airspace, national interests, and support allied missions. The aircraft are receiving modifications through a Mid-life Upgrade (MLU) to increase the fleet’s surveillance, communications and battle management capabilities. AWACS crew members will experience reduced workload, receive more actionable information and have better situational awareness thanks to these enhancements.
NATO’s E-3A Component at Geilenkirchen airbase in Germany retired its first Boeing E-3A Sentry this week, a spokesperon confirmed on 15 May. The aircraft, registered LX-N90449, was taken on its final mission on Wednesday 13 May and welcomed with a water salute from the fire brigade as it returned to Geilenkirchen for the last time. Read here for on inside report from Geilenkirchen.
The retired aircraft served NATO for well over 30 years, being delivered in the early 80s. Over the next few weeks, sensitive and re-usable equipment is taken out, after which the aircraft will be flown to desert storage in Tucson, Arizona, on 23 June. There, the equipment that was needed for the ferry flight, is also taken out of LX-N90449. The Sentry will then rest among hundreds and hundreds of other retired military aircraft at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, better known as AMARG.
The retirement leaves 16 E-3As in operation at Geilenkirchen. Out of those, 14 are to be updated with a part-glass cockpit. The first aircraft is currently undergoing tests in the US, with the first E-3A Component pilot having flown the aircraft on 29 April. The entire modification program is set to be done in 2018.