A huge military air exercise in the skies of Scandinavia ended on Friday September 27, 2013. During this first ever edition of the Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE13) about 70 aircraft of five nations flew an impressive number of 1200 sorties, accumulating more than 2,000 flying hours.
Up to 70 aircraft were in the air at a certain time, flying from Luleå-Kallax in Sweden, Rovaniemi in Finland and the Royal Norwegian Air Force main bases of Bodø and Ørland.
Two of NATO’s native English speaking nations contributed as well, but amazingly the Royal Danish Air Force didn’t participate with any of their F-16s in this somewhat Red Flag-styled Scandinavian exercise.
These are the aircraft, units and nations that did participate:
Operating from Bodø (Norway): 34 aircraft
8 F-15C, USAFE, 493rd FS
10 F-15E, USAFE, 494th FS
8 F-16AM/BM, RNoAF, 132 AW
2 F-18M2, FinAF, OT
6 JAS 39C, SweAF, 212.sqn
Operating from Luleå-Kallax (Sweden): 17 aircraft
8 Typhoon, RAF, 6 Sqn
4 JAS 39C, SweAF, 211.sqn
4 JAS 39C, SweAF, OT/E
1 S 100 (ASC890) AEW&C, SweAF, 71.sqn
Operating from Rovaniemi (Finland): 14 aircraft
8 F-18C/D, FinAF, FS11
6 JAS 39C, SweAF, 171.sqn
Operating from Ørland (Norway): 4 aircraft
2 KC-135, USAFE, 351st ARS
2 E-3A, NATO, AWACS
Some supporting aircraft like the Saab TP 100 of the Swedish Air Force are not included in the sum-up, because they were not part of the air combat training itself.
Three nations, 64 combat aircraft in the air at a time, the air forces of five countries and 2000 personnel. That is Arctic Challenge. Red Flag Scandinavian Style is being held for the first time from September 16 to September 27, 2013, in Sweden, Norway and Finland.
In total 90 aircraft will be deployed during ACE13 – nice abbreviation by the way – if one includes tanker and support aircraft. Pilots will train in co-ordinated combat tactics and procedures. The scenario is a peace enforcing operation with UN mandate.
The exercise is being conducted from four airbases: F21 Luleå-Kallax in Sweden, Bodø and Ørland in Norway and Lapin Lennosto i Rovaniemi, Finland. Operations are being directed from Bodø.
Every day two missions are flown. The morning ops are done in three different areas, one in Norway, one in Sweden and one in Finland. The afternoon program is solely executed in the vast training area of Northern Sweden, from Lycksele in the south to Kiruna in the north.
Contributing countries/units and airplanes are the 211, 212, 171 Air Combat divisions and 22 JAS 39 Gripen of the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet), F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, F-18C/D of the Finnish Air Force, Royal Air Force Typhoons and 30 F-15s of the US Air Force in Europe (USAFE; both F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle).
The planned purchase by South Korea of 60 Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F-15SE Silent Eagle fighter/strike aircraft has been questioned by practically all Republic of Korea Air Force generals currently no longer active within the armed forces.
The Air Force should give priority to more stealthier and more recently developed fighters like the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II or the Eurofighter Typhoon (EF2000) they say in a letter published by South Korean media. The generals feel the decision to go for the F-15SE is based mostly on money. The Silent Eagle might be capable, but doesn’t give the country a clear advantage in a possible war with North Korea, the former Air Force leadership feels.
In the published letter Korean president Park Geun-hye is called upon to give all three candidates a proper evaluation, secure additional funds and then select the best aircraft of the tests. Between the lines one can read it is clear the former RoKAF leadership aims for the F-35/Joint Strike Fighter.
The Royal Navy warship HMS Dragon, Royal Air Force Typhoons, US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet and US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles have put their skills and technology to the test during a recent joint exercise.
The goal was to detect, classify and monitor contacts on the sea’s surface in the challenging conditions of the Gulf. The Type 45 destroyer provides a complementary service to the highly manoeuvrable and effective Typhoon fast jet combat aircraft.
One of Dragon’s fighter controllers, Lieutenant Francis Heritage, said: “We received the help of a United States Air Force Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, aircraft to cue our fighters onto their targets. The JSTARS surface radar is incredibly powerful. When combined with our own organic sensors and those of the jets under our control, we can provide force protection over a massive area.”
The American surveillance jet fed information directly into Dragon’s operations room, allowing the destroyer to cue fighter jets onto their objectives. HMS Dragon is in the second half of her inaugural deployment, which is a mix of carrying out maritime security operations with the UK’s Gulf partners and contributing to the wider air defence of the region, such as when she joined forces with the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group a few weeks ago.