Exercise Joint Warrior 15-1 was the latest in a long running series of multinational exercises taking part in the UK. With 55 ships from 14 nations taking part, Joint Warrior 15-1 was the biggest to date. RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland again played a major part in the exercise with the majority of the air assets taking up residence at the Moray base, from where Niall Paterson reports.
Joint Warrior is one of Europe’s biggest military exercises and involves a vast array of rotary and fixed wing aircraft. The main aim of the exercise is to provide realistic training for the participating units, helping them to work together on a series of increasingly complex scenarios – mostly in the maritime environment – designed to provide valuable experience of “real world” situations. This report will focus on the air assets involved in this instalment of Joint Warrior – which included Typhoons from 1(F), II(AC) and 3(F) Squadrons, Tornado GR4s from IX(B) Squadron, Hawk T1s from Naval Air Squadron 736 and RAF 100 Squadron and Cobham operated Falcon 20s.
As usual, RAF Lossiemouth was home to the five Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) from four nations for the duration of the exercise, with the United States Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force, French Navy and German Navy sending aircraft to the Moray base. The latter was a most welcome participant for many enthusiasts as usually the German MPAs take part direct from their home base at Nordholz in Germany.
Like previous Joint Warriors, most of the exercise sorties were conducted out over the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The majority of MPA sorties were between five to nine hours duration depending on mission types and changes in the mission scenario as the exercise escalated in scope and scale.
Making the regular hop across the pond to attend Joint Warrior was 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The unit sent a single CP-140M Aurora aircraft to take part, with the second aircraft planned from the RCAF cancelling attendance at the last minute. The Aurora crews were given the nightshift patrols during the first week of the exercise and flew mainly daylight patrols the second.
The United States Navy sent two aircraft types to participate in Joint Warrior 15-1, a single Lockheed P-3C from Patrol Squadron 62 (VP-62) and a single Boeing P-8A Poseidon from Patrol Squadron 16 (VP-16). Both units flew to Lossiemouth direct from their home base of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The last time VP-16 took part in Joint Warrior was in 2011, when they were operating P-3s and no less than five were in attendance. In March 2012 the unit replaced the aging P-3s with the newer P-8A and became the first fleet Squadron to transfer to the new Poseidon. The single Poseidon was busy over the exercise flying daily for the two weeks, on a mixture of both training sorties and Joint Warrior missions.
The crews of VP-62 certainly made the most of the opportunities Joint Warrior provides, as like the P-8, their single P-3 flew daily over the two weeks. VP-62 was a welcome participant as it is the last Navy Reserve Unit operating the P-3C. On the day the P3 departed Lossiemouth heading for home, a couple of the unit’s ground personnel marshalled the aircraft out wearing Kilts, a humorous way to end VP-62s involvement in Joint Warrior.
Another unit making the regular trip over to take part in Joint Warrior was 21 Flotille of the French Navy operating a single Dassault Atlantique II. The French were one of the busier units during Joint Warrior, flying daily and some days conducting multiple sorties with a very quick turnaround to get the aircraft ready for the next mission.
Making a very welcome return to UK shores to participate in Joint Warrior 15-1 was a single German Navy Lockheed P-3C from Marinefliegergeschwader (MFG 3). Usually the German Navy contribute a single P-3 from the unit’s home base of Nordholz, Germany, with the last time a German P-3 took part from UK shores being Joint Warrior 10-2. During the first week the unit swapped airframes from 60+08 to 60+04. The latter wore anti-piracy nose art and mission marks on the left hand nose wheel door. The nose art read “Jester on Patrol” and represented the “Jester” callsign used while the German P3s are on Piracy patrols. The crew of the P3 certainly wanted to make their presence known with a flyby on arrival and departure. The departure flyby was flown at 100ft down the main runway at Lossiemouth. Safe to say it was an impressive sight to see a P3 down in the weeds like that.
Also on deployment to RAF Lossiemouth for Joint Warrior 15-1 was three United States Air Force HH-60G Pavehawks from the 56th and 57th Rescue Squadron based at RAF Lakenheath. The HH-60s flew each weekday, both day and night, conducting Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) sorties at the Air Weapons Range at Tain and to local Search and Rescue training areas around Moray and Speyside.
Although not taking part in Joint Warrior, Lossiemouth based 6 Squadron and XV(R) Squadron continued to fly their respective daily flying programs. One of the main attractions for many was the newly marked Tornado GR4 celebrating XV(R) Squadron’s Centenary. XV(R) obliged and flew ZA461 daily as part of a four ship. With 6 Squadron flying nights, it gave many a chance to photograph 6 Squadrons own Centenary marked Typhoon in some stunning evening sunshine.
For enthusiasts, this exercise was certainly smaller in terms of the Lossiemouth contingent than previous events, but two weeks of (mostly) pure blue skies. Purdah restrictions prevented the usual media day at Lossiemouth, although the enthusiasts day during the first week of the exercise was able to go ahead after a leave of absence in 2014. Although the MPA scale during the exercise was smaller, it is of no less importance – and indeed as this article is published rumours are circulating as to the future MPA purchases by the UK Ministry of Defence. It will remain to be seen what will occur at future iterations of the exercise.
Liked this article? AeroResource was also at Prestwick Airport and Keevil Airfield to take a look at the elements of Joint Warrior at those locations, so have a look at our articles from those locations.