Royal Air Force aircraft and personnel trained on an exercise in Sweden alongside eight other nations to work together in building collective security.
Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE) is one of Europe’s largest air power exercises with 140 aircraft and 4000 troops from the UK (RAF), Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and USA, supported by NATO assets, coming together from 22nd May – 4th June to test their effectiveness in a realistic threat environment.
"It’s interesting seeing how the Swedish work compared to us."
Corporal Tania Barr
Corporal Tania Barr, 30, Logistics Mover from RAF Lossiemouth said: “I love going to new places and I’ve never been to Sweden. It’s interesting seeing how the Swedish work compared to us. They’ve been really helpful in hosting us and everyone seems to be working really well together.”
Located at Luleå-Kallax Airport, the RAF is contributing 155 personnel from 14 RAF stations and seven aircraft to the exercise: five Typhoon fast-jets, one Hercules tactical transport aircraft and one Voyager transport aircraft.
Each day saw up to 100 aircraft fly simultaneously in the exercise area which extends across the airspaces of Sweden, Finland and Norway. The pilots from each nation took part in simulated scenarios to practice their combat air skills, alternating between playing the role of enemy or ally.
"We don’t often get to participate with 100 aircraft all airborne at the same time, so it’s quite a unique experience."
Flight Lieutenant Craig Allison
Flight Lieutenant Craig Allison, 28, Typhoon pilot at RAF Lossiemouth said: “Getting to ‘fight’ against a Swedish Gripen jet has been my favourite moment so far; it’s good fun to see what we can do against each other and how differently we like to fly. We don’t often get to participate with 100 aircraft all airborne at the same time, so it’s quite a unique experience.”
The RAF’s Typhoons flew alongside Swedish Gripens; F-18s from Finland and the US; F-16s from Norway, Denmark and the US; and the Rafale and Mirage from France.
On 27th May, British and American personnel were welcomed to Sweden with a visit to Luleå-Kallax air base from Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess of Sweden, who met with personnel and took a tour of the British, Swedish and American fast jets.
By taking part in the exercise, the nine participating air forces shared knowledge and learnt from each other to strengthen their interoperability. Personnel were tested in various disciplines including:
- Threat evasion tactics such as low-level flying
- Aerial resupply (load drops) to friendly forces
- Search and rescue
- Air-to-air refuelling
The exercise was uniquely operated from three airbases in three different countries, adding further complexity to already demanding missions. This trained personnel for the possibility of working this way with other nations on future operations.
"Flying alongside the pilots from other nations is great because there’s always that slight competition"
Wing Commander Matt D’Aubyn
Officer Commanding 6 Squadron
“ACE 19 is an opportunity for us to train with our allies to improve our interoperability and ensure we’re capable of contributing to the collective security of Europe and NATO,” said the UK Commander for ACE 19; Wing Commander Matt D’Aubyn, Officer Commanding 6 Squadron and Typhoon pilot at RAF Lossiemouth.
“Flying alongside the pilots from other nations is great because there’s always that slight competition: you always want to prove yourselves and so far the UK contingent is performing very well.”
Arctic Challenge Exercise is hosted between the air forces of Sweden, Finland and Norway and this year was led by the Swedish Air Force.