Exercise Joint Warrior 2014 Serial 1 was the latest in the long-running series of multinational exercises of the name that have run in the UK, and also the largest tactically focused military exercise held in Europe during 2014. Over 13,000 personnel, 33 ships, 3 submarines and multiple ground, troop and air assets from 9 separate countries took part in 14-1 making it the biggest to date (and similar in complexity to Joint Warrior 13-1), with the majority of the air assets once again based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland – from where AeroResource reports.
Whilst Joint Warrior is a massive exercise, the majority of the work is conducted out at sea. The aim of the exercise is to meet the training needs of all participating nations, and as such Joint Warrior is styled to provide scenarios in a broad range of modern operations – including terrorist activities, piracy and nation-on-nation missions. This report focusses understandably on the air asset operations of the exercise – which included a very strong and diverse range of Multi Mission Aircraft, as well as UK based fast jet assets from the Marham Tornado Wing, XI(F) Squadron, 736 Naval Air Squadron and 100 Squadron.
The Maritime Patrol element of Joint Warrior 14-1 was particularly strong, with 8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) directly involved in the exercise, and a grand total of 12 MPA passing through Lossiemouth at various points during the two week exercise. Although the UK does not currently have its own Maritime Patrol Asset, Project Seedcorn has ensured that capability is not lost – and as such personnel from the UK MPA community are now serving with other nations to retain and develop their skills (at least one service member under Seedcorn participated in Joint Warrior 14-1, with the CP-140 fleet of the Royal Canadian Air Force).
One nation feeling the loss of the Nimrod fleet is Norway. The Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) operate 6 Lockheed P-3C Orions (Four P-3C variants and two P-3Ns) with 333 Squadron at Andøya, and – according to Lieutenant Colnel Bjorn Gohn-Hellum, the Norwegian detachment commander for the exercise – additional strain has been placed on the Orion fleet to help cover the gap left by Nimrod.
The RNoAF deployed a single P-3C Orion and two crews to Joint Warrior – arriving on the first day of the exercise and flying most days thereafter. The Norwegians have not attended Jojnt Warrior since it was held at RAF Kinloss, meaning they were a very welcome participant at Lossiemouth this year. The crews spirit cannot go unmentioned either, from a crew member adorned with a Viking Helmet flying the Norwegian flag from the top hatch on taxi one day to those at the fence, and on base being treated to several low passes at both Kinloss and Lossiemouth after completion of their final mission of the exercise it’s fair to say they enjoyed their stay in Moray too. We hope to see them back soon!
The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) also deployed to Lossiemouth, with two CP-140 Auroras – one each from 405 and 407 Long Range Patrol Squadrons. One Aurora was a newly modified CP-140M Block III example, the details of which, alongside the particulars of the RCAF Joint Warrior deployment are covered in AeroResource’s “CP-140 Aurora – Canadian MMA” article.
A common participant in Joint Warrior is France – whose Maritime Patrol capability is provided by the indigenously developed Dassault Atlantique. Operated by 21 and 23 Flotille at BAN Lann-Bihoué, the Atlantique II is a double bubble fuselage design – with the upper bubble containing the pressurized mission cabin, and the lower bubble a 9m long torpedo, weapons and sensor bay. The Atlantique model operated today is the upgraded second generation, which retains the same basic airframe as the original but has a completed upgraded sensor and mission suite, a new FLIR turret in the nose, and the ability to carry the Exocet anti-shipping missile. From an original order of 42, France operates 22 of the type – with recent deployments to Mali in support of Operation Serval seeing the deployment of GBU-12 laser guided bombs against insurgents trying to overthrow the Malian government.
For the aircrew of VP-10 “Red Lancers” from Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida, this Joint Warrior is likely to be the last they attend as a P-3 Orion unit. VP-10 brought two P-3C Orions to Lossiemouth (of which one carried squadron markings, and one was unmarked), and are scheduled to deploy to theatre in the not too distant future. Joint Warrior was being used as a pre-deployment training exercise and assessment – with US Navy personnel on station to assess the readiness of the unit for an operational deployment. After deploying, VP-10 will begin to transition to the P-8A Poseidon, as the US Navy gradually phases out the P-3 in favour of the newer P-8A.
There was a third US Navy P-3 present for Joint Warrior – The sole NP-3C Orion from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20) arrived a week prior to the exercise. Whilst not directly participating in Joint Warrior, this test airframe was making use of the large scale gathering of naval vessels that only an exercise of this size can provide to conduct trials on new equipment. Flying daily as “SCORE 01”, this Orion is a rare visitor to the UK – although it was present at Fairford in August 2013, and had previously deployed to RAF Kinloss during Joint Warrior in 2011. The aircraft departed from Lossiemouth on 2nd April, having completed its test work.
Completing the United States Navy contingent at Lossiemouth was a single Boeing P-8A Poseidon. The successor to the P-3, the P-8A is now starting to enter fleet service – and it was VP-5 “Mad Foxes” who marked the first fleet deployment of the Poseidon to the UK. VP-5 had operated the P-3 Orion since 1966, and transitioned to the P-8A in August 2013, making it the second squadron to do so, behind VP-16 “War Eagles” who reached Safe For Flight (SFF) status in January 2013.
The award for “furthest travel distance” for Joint Warrior 14-1 had to go to the Royal New Zealand Air Force, represented by 5 Squadron with a single P-3K Orion and supported in the second week by a C-130H from 40 Squadron. Flying from New Zealand via Dubai, the journey for the crew took 6 days (and the return was expected to take the same, but flying via the United States. The New Zealand crew had been hard worked – having been heavily involved in the (at the time) ongoing search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. The crews had to depart immediately at the end of the exercise for the continuation of the search.
The MPA assets flew daily, spreading the missions between the respective attendant countries and their crews. Missions were conducted 24 hours a day, throughout the intermediate weekend of the exercise up until midday on the Thursday of the second week. This seemingly early finish was to allow for crew rest before the aircraft were flown home on the Friday. Typically, each mission had a duration of 5 to 6 hours with an aircraft always on station at any one time, whilst on station the aircraft would carry out their tasking jointly with land or sea borne assets. As has been the case in previous years, each maritime asset flew under a 3 figure alpha numerical callsign, consisting of a single number and 2 letters, assigned differently for every mission flown during the exercise. The aircraft reported in to ‘Hunter Ops’ on deployment and return to and from their tasking, who coordinated with the other assets that were relevant to each mission. This round the clock action saw the base impressively active during the two weeks, with as many as 8 separate MPA missions alone flown on the intermediate Saturday of the exercise.
Amongst the non-MPA assets to deploy to Lossiemouth for Joint Warrior 14-1 was the mixed fleet of Hawk T.1 and Falcon 20s from 736 Naval Air Squadron and Cobham Aviation. 736 NAS – stood up to fly the Hawk T.1 in Royal Naval service in July 2013 in an Aggressor role, similar to the RAF’s 100 Squadron at Leeming (whom incidentally were present at RAF Leuchars with a strength of 4 aircraft for the two week exercise.) Typically the Hawk will simulate an anti-ship missile, allowing crews to train in avoidance procedure and damage control. For Joint Warrior, 736NAS operated with Cobham aviation – typically using the Falcon 20 as a “mothership” to launch the Hawks as simulated missiles. The Falcon 20s can also be utilised as target towers, and provide Electronic Surveillance Measures and Electronics Counter Measures training via a wide range of equipment that can be fitted under the wings of the Falcon. One such role which is rarely seen at the fence was demonstrated by G-FRAO as it performed a low pass before landing in order to drop a ‘drogue’. The ‘drogue’ is dragged behind the aircraft at a great distance and used as a moving target for ship mounted turrets to train on/hit. Once the ‘drogue’ is back on the deck it is inspected and the number of successful hits counted towards a final score.
A single DA-42 Diamond Star, G-DSPY, was also present during the exercise and flew frequently throughout the second week during daylight hours under the callsign of WhiteKnight. The aircraft is fitted with a FLIR Turret under the nose and appeared to provide observational top cover over key locations during the exercise.
The exercise also saw a strong rotary presence this year, with up to 15 assets from the UKs Joint Helicopter Force (JHC) conducting operations at neighbouring Kinloss Barracks during the second week. The contingent of helicopters flew up to Kinloss Barracks from RAF West Freugh with a fuel stop at RAF Leuchars on the Monday of the second week, and immediately conducted the main airfield assault of the exercise on arrival with the objective of taking back the base from enemy forces. With 2 Lynx AH9A’s, callsign Outlaw, providing top cover, 2 Apache AH1’s secured the local area before the main transport assets were cleared to move in.
With the area clear, 5 Merlin’s, 3 Puma’s and a Chinook operating under the callsigns of Battlecat, Warlock and Gambit respectively ran in from the East at low level, landed, and dropped 10-20 troops each before departing minutes later to the South. After the troops on the ground had moved in and secured the buildings on the base, the main runway was cleared to allow C-130’s holding in the local area to conduct tactical landings for troop extraction. C-130Js from the RAF and Royal Danish Air Force along with a C-130H from the Belgian Air Force operated throughout the second week under the callsign Omen transporting troops to and from West Freugh. Similar airfield assaults were carried out during the remainder of the week on a smaller scale. This was the first time the airfield had been active for aircraft movements of this scale since RAF Kinloss became Kinloss Barracks with the Army 39 Engineer Regiment in 2012.
Command and control of the exercise was again in the hands of the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) from Northwood HQ – deployed for the exercise to the Joint Warrior Operations Centre at HM Naval Base Clyde. For the duration of the exercise, JTEPS was augmented by 200 additional personnel from all three services to provide specialist expertise and support. In addition to JTEPS, nine 1-star commands participate in the exercise, across land, sea and air.
Exercise Joint Warrior 14-2 takes place from October 6th – October 17th 2014.
AeroResource would like to extend their sincere thanks to Flight Lieutenant Helen Baxter and Squadron Leader Lloyd Barrett (RAF), Lieutenant Colnel Bjorn Gohn-Hellum (Royal Norwegian Air Force), Commander James Johnston (United States Navy), Lieutenant Richard Wood (Royal Navy), Squadron Leader Marcus Hogan (Royal New Zealand Air Force) and Major Ray Townsend (Royal Canadian Air Force) for their help in producing this article.