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).
As reported this week, the F-35A Lightning II has taken the final hurdle in the Netherlands. That leaves a few companies with empty hands, although it has to be said that Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter GmbH did just about everything they could. It’s however no major surprise that the F-35A will after all replace the Dutch F-16 in a few years time. Saab, Dassault, and Eurofighter GmbH were essentially the losers from the word ‘go’, as the Dutch MoD basically had only thing in mind. Here goes a tribute to losers!
In 2001, Rafale, Gripen and Eurofighter went head to head at the Leeuwarden airshow in the Netherlands. The JSF – as the F-35 was known as back then – was nowhere to been seen, since the prototype X-35 only flew first in October 2000.
In the years that followed, all three competitors started appearing in European skies more and more, while the F-35 only really started testing in late 2006.
As production mounted, Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter started looking for export customers for their hardware in the hope that sells would really take off. All types saw action in the 2011 Libya war. Meanwhile, testing of the F-35 continues in the US. Some time between August 2016 and December 2016, the first USAF F-35 squadron will reach Initial Operational Capability.
Show off In recent years, Gripens, Rafales and Eurofighters were steady performers at airshows worldwide. It is unclear when the first F-35 will be seen outside the United States.
The final loser There is however one more loser in the well over a decade long debate about a Dutch F-16 replacement. It’s the F-35A Lightning II that in some years time will touch down on Dutch soil, but will have to do its very best to win the hearts and trust of Dutch taxpayers. Plus, we at AIRheads↑FLY simply think its not the sexiest thing in the sky. Go Rafale!
The Royal Air Force deployed six Typhoon fighter jets to its Akrotiri base at Cyprus on Thursday morning August 29th.
,,This is part of ongoing contingency planning”, an RAF official writes in a press release. ,,This is a precautionary measure, specifically aimed at protecting UK interests and the defence of our Sovereign Base Areas at a time of heightened tension in the wider region. This is a movement of defensive assets operating in an air-to-air role only. They are not deploying to take part in any military action against Syria.”
But in case there will be action the Eurofighter Typhoons can quickly be retasked with other missions, although interdiction of Syrian airspace seems highly risky at first if one considers the country’s ground based air defences.
,,The Prime Minister has made clear no decision has been taken on the UK’s response to the situation in Syria and there will be a House of Commons vote before any direct military involvement”, according to the RAF press release.
Later on Thursday the British parliament voted against military actions against Syria, so the possible re-tasking of the Typhoons is out of the question.
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.