Tri-Lateral Agreement Gets Airborne

17 December 2015

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The rasping roar of twin EJ200 jet engines cuts over the constant high-pitched whistle of taxiing British, US and French jet fighters as a Royal Air Force Typhoon accelerates down the runway.

Exercise Trilateral 2015

The aircraft lifts, climbs steeply, banks hard to the right and disappears into the distance. For the next twenty minutes, more Typhoons, US F-22 Raptors and French Rafales repeat the scene to join a deadly aerial information war game in the sky.

The aircraft are flying in the first major exercise of many, designed to hone air combat interoperability between the three red, white and blue nations. This follows the re-signing of the Tri-Lateral Strategic Initiative by each country’s most senior air force officer in July this year.

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, along with leaders of the USAF and Armée de l'Air, met at Langley Air Force

Explaining the purpose of the exercise, held at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, the RAF’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for European air forces to get alongside the United States Air Force to start delivering true interoperability across Europe and across NATO.

“The important thing is our three air forces can operate together as one. We represent three nations from a very strong coalition, which has delivered peace to Europe since the end of the Second World War.

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, along with leaders of the USAF and Armée de l'Air, met at Langley Air Force base

“This is three air forces that are demonstrating that we can and always have worked well together, that we still can and still do, and it doesn’t matter whether we are operating over Iraq or Syria, or exercising here on the east coast of the US, these are three air forces operating as one team and for the common good.”

The RAF’s Typhoon and the French Rafale are regarded as fourth generation jet fighters while the considerably more expensive F-22 Raptor is seen as fifth generation.

The key differences in this generation gap are the stealthy attributes of the Raptor and its ability to ‘hoover up’, process and present masses of data. The pilot can then increase the potency of any fourth generation aircraft flying alongside by sharing this information.

A XI Squadron Typhoon takes of at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia as part of Exercise Tri-Lateral 2015.

Leading the detachment of Typhoons and more than 170 personnel is the Officer Commanding XI (F) Squadron based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. He said:

“We have worked with the French and the Americans before but not on this level. The confidence we have in each other now is rising and it’s going to rise every single time that we do this.”

A USAF F-22 Raptor performs a display for the Chiefs of Staff from the RAF, Armee de l'air and USAF following the Tri-Lateral Exercise in Virginia, USA.

One pilot on the exercise described modern air warfare as an information war.

“Whoever can gather, process and exploit the most information in the quickest time will win the information war and ultimately the fight. With fifth generation aircraft being able to instantly share data with their fourth generation cousins, the Typhoon can become and an even more effective and capable jet fighter.”

Exercise Trilateral 2015

Military flight simulators can emulate every situation a pilot is likely to face; however, the exercise is also a practice of overseas expeditionary war fighting. This includes testing the RAF ground crews and supply chains.

With two waves of Typhoons flying each day, the exercise is heavily reliant upon the expertise of the ground crew to keep the aircraft serviceable.

An RAF corporal engineer summed up the importance of his colleagues by saying, “It’s all one team effort. Even pilots need heroes because without the engineers the aircraft wouldn’t get off the ground.”

Editor: Fg Off Peter Lisney

Photographs: Cpl Jimmy Wise /SAC Mark Parkinson

Exercise Trilateral 2015.

Major Général Antoine Creux, Armée de l'Air (left), Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, General Mark A. Welsh III (centre), and RAF Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford (right).

Major Général Antoine Creux, Armée de l'Air (right), Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, General Mark A. Welsh III (2nd right), and RAF Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford (2nd left).

A XI Squadron Typhoon takes of at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia as part of Exercise Tri-Lateral 2015.

A USAF F-22 Raptor performs a display for the Chiefs of Staff from the RAF, Armee de l'air and USAF following the Tri-Lateral Exercise in Virginia, USA.

© MOD Crown Copyright 2015

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