RAF and German Air Force personnel are training to conduct the first integrated NATO Air Policing mission.
In April the German Air Force, which is currently deployed in Estonia will be handing over responsibility for the leadership of the long-established NATO Air Policing mission to and RAF Expeditionary Air Wing that includes RAF Lossiemouth based IX(Bomber) Squadron.
Prior to the commencement of their leadership of the NATO mission, elements of the RAF detachment will be integrated into the German detachment in Estonia, to fly joint sorties during March. Once the NATO mission is handed over a German detachment will remain integrated into the now RAF led mission to continue joint sorties throughout April.
This is the latest in a series of exercises and deployments that the two air forces have been conducting over several years with the eventual aim of carrying out a fully joint and integrated NATO air mission. Joint NATO sorties have been flown before, but the level and length of integration being planned is a first for NATO Air Policing.
NATO Air Policing is our bread and butter business, but what’s different about this particular deployment is the fact that we are operating as a combined unit with our German counterparts. Under this construct, we learn from each other more rapidly, and combine our strengths to become greater than the sum of the parts.
NATO is the cornerstone of Europe’s defence, and proving our two nations can work seamlessly together in this way, providing essential Control of the Air capabilities on our Eastern Flank, proves to our potential adversaries that the NATO alliance is stronger than ever.
Air Marshal Smyth
Deputy Commander Operations RAF
To achieve this integration, the personnel from the two air forces are training together to fully understand and integrate each other’s operating procedures including maintenance and operating procedures. Both air forces fly the Eurofighter Typhoon, but there are national differences and for a joint detachment to fully integrate all aspects of the operations must be fully understood. Once achieved this will allow two jets to fly together on a live intercept with one jet from each air force.
The preparation commenced with a German Air Force detachment, to RAF Lossiemouth where personnel from the 71 Tactical Air Wing ‘Richthofen’ conducted both air and ground training with IX(B) Squadron.
This training included integrated Quick Reaction Alert procedures and air-to-air refuelling from an RAF Voyager. In addition to the flying training, a team of 18 Luftwaffe engineers conducted cross-training between German and RAF versions of the Typhoon.
It was great to welcome our friends from the German Air Force. Joint training such as this gives us the opportunity to work together with our NATO Allies and gain a better understanding of how we will operate ahead of our Combined Baltic Air Policing task in the coming weeks.
There is a high degree of interoperability with our Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, this joint training provided a fantastic opportunity to develop our joint tactics and procedures and take what we have learned forward to Op Azotize.
Wing Commander Leask
Officer Commanding IX(B) Squadron
This week was important to train and develop together ahead of delivering Combined Baltic Air Policing. The lessons we learnt in the air and on the ground will pay dividends when we meet again in Estonia.
Major Lars ‘Scarlett’ Hansen
Luftwaffe Detachment Commander