RAF COMPLETES ARCTIC CHALLENGE

ROYAL AIR FORCE aircraft and personnel have completed training on an exercise in Sweden alongside eight other nations to work together in building collective security.

Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE) was one of Europe’s largest air force 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 22 May – 4 June to test their effectiveness in a realistic threat environment.

Corporal Tania Barr, 30, Logistics Mover from RAF Lossiemouth said: “It was interesting seeing how the Swedish work compared to us. They were really helpful in hosting us and everyone seemed to work really well together. I love going to new places and I’ve never been to Sweden.”

Corporal Tania Barr on Arctic Challenge Exercise
Corporal Tania Barr enjoyed working with Swedish Air Force personnel during ACE
Image by: SAC Anna Lythgoe

Located at Luleå-Kallax air base, the RAF contributed 155 personnel from 14 RAF stations to support its seven aircraft on the exercise: five Typhoon fast-jets, one Hercules tactical transport aircraft and one Voyager transport aircraft.

Participants of ACE discuss the exercise programme
Personnel from US, Sweden, and UK discuss the ACE programme
Image by: SAC Anna Lythgoe

Each day saw up to 100 aircraft fly simultaneously in the exercise area which extended 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.

Flight Lieutenant Craig Allison, 28, Typhoon pilot at RAF Lossiemouth said: “Getting to ‘fight’ against a Swedish Gripen jet was my favourite moment; it was 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 was 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.

A Typhoon on a sortie as part of ACE
A RAF Typhoon sets off for another exercise as part of ACE
Image by: SAC Anna Lythgoe

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 trains personnel for the possibility of working this way with other nations on future operations.

On 27 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.

Her Royal Highness Crown Princess of Sweden meets Wing Commander Matt D'Aubyn
Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess of Sweden is shown a RAF Typhoon taking part in ACE by Wg Cdr Matt D'Aubyn
Image by: SAC Anna Lythgoe

“ACE 19 was 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 was great because there’s always that slight competition: you always want to prove yourselves and the UK contingent performed very well.”

Arctic Challenge Exercise was hosted between the air forces of Sweden, Finland and Norway and this year was led by the Swedish Air Force.

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