Tag Archives: EATC

Press Play | Looking for more tankers in European skies

Where’s a gas station when you need it? That’s exactly what’s going in the minds of a Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) KDC-10 crew as they look for the French C-135 Stratotanker that should be flying somewhere ahead of them. Seconds later, they find the French aircraft and move in closer. It’s an obvious metaphor for closing the infamous European tanker gap. The solution comes in two shapes: the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and the Airbus A400M.

Over the North Sea and to the crew of the KDC-10, that’s all distant music. As participants in the European Air Refuelling Training (EART) at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands, they have just finished air-to-air refuelling (AAR) twelve F-16s that take part in action packed exercise Frisian Flag 2016. Somewhere ahead and beneath them, the French KC-135 also just finished refuelling fighter jets, as did the German Airbus A310 that’s also nearby.

Goal

That’s three air-to-air refuellers in the same patch of sky, a sight not often seen as tanker aircraft are usually hard to find in Europe. The overall goal of EART is to improve flexability, efficiency and effectiveness of the combined tanker force of all zeven nations (the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Spain and Italy) that handed command over their assets over to the European Air Transport Command (EATC). From Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands,  EATC commands  19 tanker aircraft of various types from all seven nations. That number equals 65 percent of all AAR platforms available in Europe.

Airbus A400M

Compared to the hundreds of air refuelling aircraft available to the US, the European numbers fall far short, hence the ‘tanker gap’. However, that gap may soon be a thing of the past, given the increasing number of Airbus A400M available to France and Germany, plus Spain and Belgium in the near future. By 2025, EATC should have 80 or so A400Ms at its disposal, with roughly 40 air refuelling kits available for those aircraft. The new Airbus aircraft has been involved in AAR tests.

(Image © Vincent Kok)
Two F-16s taking part in Frisian Flag 2016 join up prior to refuelling. (Image © Vincent Kok)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Polish F-16 is about to move into position behind the KDC-10. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Participants of the European Air Refuelling Training (EART) on the tarmac at Eindhoven airbase. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

MRTT

Moreover, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Poland are on course to jointly buy and operate the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). During EART, it emerged that a Memorandum of Understanding is to be signed during the NATO summit in July in Warsaw, with a contract for three or four aircraft to be signed that same month during the Farnborough Airshow.

The shared pool should grow to eight Airbus A330 MRTTs eventually. Belgium, Germany and Spain have already expressed interest in particpating in the program as well.

Harmonize

“EATC has been asked to harmonize A400M and A330 MRTT operations in the future”, says Colonel Jurgen van der Biezen, a RNLAF-delegate to the joint European command in Eindhoven. “What we are looking for, is an air-to-air refuelling hub that is very similar in operation to the European Heavy Airlift Wing operating from Hungary.”

Introducing the A400M and A330 MRTT as tankers increases EATC’s refuelling fleet to 69 assets, equal to 82 percent of all similar capacity in Europe. It’s a signifant increase compared to today’s situation, an increase that enables European nations to support their own – plus each other’s – operations.

It’s an idea that gets the thumbs up from all within EATC, just like the thumbs up shown by the crew of a Dutch KDC-10 tanker over the North Sea. They successfully performed some formation flying with the other two tankers in the same patch of sky. After leaving the formation, they are on their own again. But with a different feeling this time. There are others out there.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Video filming, editing and © Vincent Kok – Orange Avenue Filmworks
Featured image: On the look out for tankers over the North Sea. (Image © Vincent Kok)

A RNLAF F-16 pilot gives the thumbs up. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A RNLAF F-16 pilot gives the thumbs up. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
More customers for the Dutch KDC-10. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
More customers for the Dutch KDC-10. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Polish F-16 sneaks up on the KDC-10 from behind. (Image © Vincent Kok)
A Polish F-16 sneaks up on the KDC-10 from behind. (Image © Vincent Kok)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A French C-135 Stratotanker beging inspected prior to its next flight. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Contract for shared European tankers to be signed in July

A contract for four Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft shared by the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Poland is to be signed next July during the Farnborough Airshow. That’s the news that emerged on Wednesday 20 April during a media briefing at the European Air Transport Command (EATC) in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

The aircraft will be based at Eindhoven and carry Dutch military registration numbers. A Memorandum of Understanding is to be signed first in Warzaw during a NATO summit.

The fleet should increase to eight aircraft at a later stage. EATC will be responsible for tasking the aircraft and optiziming their use. The aircraft should also operated from Forward Operating Bases in Norway and Poland.

More about European Air Transport Command and the current European Air-to-Air Refueling Training (EART) at Eindhoven airbase follows soon, here at Airheadsfly.com. See here for a report on last year’s EART.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

EATC adds 31 Italian Air Force aircraft

European Air Transport Command (EATC) has added 31 Italian Air Force transport and tanker aircraft to its command, the Italian ministry of Defense announced this week. EATC is based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and now has 220 European tanker and transport aircraft at its disposal, equal to over 60 percent of all military air transport assets in Europe.

Joining the command of EATC are four Boeing KC-767 tankers, twenty Lockheed C-130Js and seven Alenia C-27J Spartans. Italy and Spain formally joined EATC already in 2014, but the former still had to transfer operational control over its tanker and transport fleet to EATC.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Spain and Italy are now part of EATC. Military transport and air-to-air refueling exercises are regularly held, such as this one in 2015.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: An Italian Air Force KC-767. (Image © Tomas Maruscak)

Red Flag for big guys

For the past two weeks, Beja airbase in Portugal was the scene of multi national exercise European Air Transport Training (EATT15), organized by European Defence Agency (EDA) and European Air Transport Command (EATC). In other words: C-27J Spartan and C-130 Hercules galore in Portugal. This is Red Flag for the big guys.

Taking part in EATT15 were Portugal, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden and the UK, as well as observer countries Brazil, the United States and Poland. Next to C-27Js and C-130s, also present at Beja were Airbus C295s and C-160 Transall aircraft. In total, 20 transport aircraft and 2,500 military personnel were involved, not counting in three Portuguese Air Force F-16s and a sole P-3C Orion.

The EATT15 aims to train and prepare the crews of tactical airlift squadrons in order to guarantee their readiness for all kinds of operations within the European alliance. The concept of the exercise is to “provide joint training and ensure interoperability among the participating forces”, said Lt. Col. Laurent Donnet, overseeing EATT15 on behalf of the Belgian Air Component.

 (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
A long way from home: a Swedish Hercules in Portugal. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Also a long way from home, is this C295 from Finland. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Also a long way from home, is this C295 from Finland. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
 (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
A fine study of a Alenia Aermacchi C-27J. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

Scenarios
During the exercise, crews trained for various scenarios, such as operations to and from unprepared air strips, Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR), extraction of military and non-military elements, medical evacuations, plus air support in an urban environment and emergency situations.

The home team. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
The home team. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Blue skies surround this Spartan…. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
 (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
… and this Hercules. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

JPADS
During EATT15, crews used the Airdrop Joint Precision System (JPADS), a US military airdrop system using GPS, an onboard computer and steerable parachutes to direct cargo to a designated impact point.

EATT15 was also about efficient use of logistics, tooling and spare parts. The proximity of similar aircraft types and their crews allowed for standardization of procedures, exchange of know-how as well as the fostering of a spirit of unity. This spirit is embraced by European Air Transport Command (EATC), the institution directing and overseeing operations of hundreds of European military transport and tanker aircraft. The latter had their own exercise earlier this year.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com guest editor Jorge Ruivo – www.cannontwo.blogspot.pt
Featured image (top): A C-130 overhead Beja in Portugal. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

A Lithuanian Spartan. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
A Lithuanian Spartan. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
 (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Touchdown for the Spartan. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Flaring for landing. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Flaring for landing. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
EATT15's final landing was on 26 June. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
EATT15’s final landing was on 26 June. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

Flying the Frisian Flag

Large scale military flying exercise Frisian Flag 2015 is currently in full swing at Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands and Airheadsfly.com went access all areas on Tuesday 14 April. Close to 60 fighter aircraft from six different nations take part in Frisian Flag, which coincides with the European Air-to-Air Refuelling Training 2015 (EART 2015) at Eindhoven airbase, also in Netherlands.

During Frisian Flag, military jets fly in complex scenarios twice a day. The aim is to broaden the experience of fighter pilots in developing, planning and executing offensive and defensive tactics. Involved in the current Frisian Flag are F-16s from the Dutch and Polish air forces, F-18 Hornets from both Finland and Spain, Eurofighter Typhoons from Germany, plus US Air National Guard F-15 Eagles. Lots more about those Eagles is here.

Jet noise is what Leeuwarden is about these days. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Jet noise is what Leeuwarden is about these days. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Two engines, even more noise. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Two engines, even more noise. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Robust
Frisian Flag was first held following joint allied operations over the Balkan in the early nineties. “We train crews in missions against robust airborne and ground threats, including Roland and German SA-6 ground-to-air defence systems, inflatable targets and smokey SAMs, which simulate missiles being launched at aircraft. It provides the best training you can get,” says Dutch F-16 pilot Remco, a pilot of Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) 322 TACTES Squadron with 1,000 hours on the F-16 under his belt. Since 323 Squadron left for the US to learn to fly the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II late last year, 322 Squadron has taken over the responsibility for organizing Frisian Flag.


(Footage © Elmer van Hest)
Leadership
Remco was mission commander on the first missions of this year’s exercise. “Frisian Flag is all about leadership and it challenges you. You have to know the capabilities of each participating asset and deploy them as best as you can. Planning of each mission takes about six hours, and we only finish after landing during a mass debrief. Those debriefs get quite heated at times about which tactics worked and which didn’t. But the proof is always there on the screens. That’s lessons learned in the end.”

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Spanish F-18 Hornets are newcomers to Frisian Flag. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Not so much for Polish F-16s. They are regulars. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Not so much for Polish F-16s. They are regulars. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Necessity
Frisian Flag has been a familiar name among European air combat exercises for years and past editions has drew countless air crews to Leeuwarden. The airbase staff puts a lot of effort in explaining the necessity of Frisian Flag to the population of Leeuwarden. The airbase is located close to the town and noise complaints are a fact of life, with roughly 40 aircraft taking off and landing twice every day for two weeks.

Tankers
The real playground for Frisian Flag is however not Leeuwarden, but a 180nm by 322nm reserved airspace over the North Sea which extends towards Northern Germany in the East. Flying time to the area from Leeuwarden is just three minutes. However,  the use of tanker aircraft makes for more efficient missions. Frisian Flag is therefore combined with European Air-to-Air Refuelling Training 2015 (EART 2015), run by European Air Transport Command (EATC) at Eindhoven airbase. Tanker aircraft supporting the Frisian Flag participants are a Dutch KDC-10, French KC-135 Stratotanker, German A310 MRTT and Italian KC-767 tanker aircraft. More on EART 2015 next week here at Airheadsfly.com.

20150414_EHLW_USAF_F15S_TAXYING_DSC_0216
The Air National Guard F-15s make good use of thir stay at Leeuwarden. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Close to terra firma and his fellow species, but not yet. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A German Typhoon finds runway 23. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Platform
Frisian Flag, along with similar exercises such as Red Flag and Maple Flag, serves as a constant platform for exchanging experience and ideas. The arrival of the F-35 at Leeuwarden in 2019 – and the new tactics involved with the new 5th generation fighter – means Frisian Flag will see changes in the future. “We are working on that,” says Remco. Current experiences over Iraq and earlier scenarios over Afghanistan and Libya are being incorporated into the exercise.

Both Frisian Flag and EART run until 24 April. The Air National Guard F-15s will stay at Leeuwarden for an extra week and will eventually head to Graf Ignatievo Airbase in Bulgaria as part of US operation Atlantic Resolve.

See here for a report on ↑ Last year’s Frisian Flag.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

A Dutch Viper pilot in his office. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Dutch Viper pilot in his office. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Spanish Hornet pilot looks after his wingman… (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
… while a US pilot checks his instruments. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Finnish F-18 pilot concentrates in his cockpit. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Finnish F-18 pilot concentrates in his cockpit. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Landing time for this German pilot. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Landing time for this German pilot. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
This F-15C is the most colourful os the twelve US Eagles present. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
This F-15C is the most colourful of the twelve US Eagles present. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
No less than 10 German Typhoons headed for Leeuwarden. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Burning rubber. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Burning rubber. (Image © Elmer van Hest)