Exercise Joint Warrior 13-1, running from 15-29th April 2013, once again drew participation from multiple nations in one of Europe’s largest military exercises. The aviation contingent was based at RAF Leuchars and Lossiemouth, from where Ben Montgomery reports for AeroResource.

Organised under the control of the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS), Joint Warrior aims to provide multi-national training in a variety of operational situations, enabling the participating nations to collaborate in effective Combined Joint Task Forces. JTEPS is formed from members of the HQ Air Command and Navy Command, based at Headquarters Northwood, and provides the direction that shapes each individual exercise, based on established requirements and those directed by commands from individual participating nations.

Whilst multiple scenarios are incorporated into the exercise, the overarching theme is often of state versus state warfare, with initial engagements simulating a time of high tension, with strict rules of engagement. During the second week, these missions morph into high tempo warfare operations, including amphibious assaults from the marine units involved. Interspersed with this mission are smaller scenarios that give experience and training in other facets of warfare such as Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Combat Air Support (CAS), counter smuggling, counter piracy and counter terrorism.

The exercise incorporates a large number of naval vessels, as well as land forces and air support. For Joint Warrior 13-1, 24 ships and 2 submarines were involved, with around 40 aircraft and over 5,000 UK personnel participating (the total participation was around 12,000 – making this the largest Joint Warrior yet). Vessels from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Canada and Sweden were participating, with aircraft from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada and Brazil located at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Leuchars.

RAF Lossiemouth

The Maritime Patrol Aircraft for the exercise were back in familiar surroundings in Moray, having been deployed to RAF Leuchars for the prior exercise (see Joint Warrior 12-2). These assets conducted around-the-clock flights from RAF Lossiemouth undertaking anti-submarine warfare, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions in support of the naval vessels engaged in the exercise. Typically, the aircraft would spend around 5 hours on task, with the replacement aircraft launching around an hour before the previous aircraft returned to Lossiemouth, to ensure continuous coverage on station.

Due to sequestration in the United States, the US continent was less than in previous exercises, with only two aircraft participating in the Maritime Patrol role. In previously exercises, up to 5 aircraft had been present, including Boeing P-8A Poseidons during Joint Warrior 12-1 and 12-2. For JW13-1, two United States Navy Lockheed P-3C Orions from Patrol Squadron 4 (VP-4) “Skinny Dragons” deployed to RAF Lossiemouth for the exercise, having been on deployment at Sigonella NAS in Italy (with US Sixth Fleet, in support of Task Force 67) – a far cry from their home base of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Oahu, Hawaii.

Due to the lower number of US assets than expected, both France and Canada upped their contribution from one maritime aircraft each to two – with Canada providing two CP-140 Auroras from 407 Squadron, and France sending two Dassault Atlantique IIs from 23 Flotille. One of each type was present prior to the start of the exercise, with the second example of each arriving on the first day (Monday 15th) – the second CP-140 having spent the weekend at Inverness as Lossiemouth was closed.

Also attending in the Maritime Patrol role for the first time was a single Brazilian Air Force P-3AM Orion. The aircraft is the first of 8 ex-USN examples, contracted to be updated by CASA from 2008. The aircraft are upgraded with a Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS) and a new flightdeck with Thales Digital displays. The P-3AM is the first anti-submarine warfare asset in service with Brazil after a 15-year capability gap, so deploying to Joint Warrior is a logical step to maintain and increase the effectiveness of that capability. This deployment also marked the first visit of the type to the UK, and interestingly the visit included no direct support aircraft (many at Lossiemouth were confident that a Brazilian Air Force C-130 would bring support equipment for the exercise).

Lossiemouth also saw additional US aircraft, in the shape of three HH-60G Pavehawks deployed from (relatively) local RAF Lakenheath. The Pavehawks are operated by the 56th Rescue Squadron (RQS), and used the deployment to fly up to three sorties a day – frequently making the trip over to the nearby RAF Tain air weapons range to conduct simulated Combat Search and Rescue sorties (CSAR). The 56thRQS are the squadron at Lakenheath least affected by the sequestration cuts – whilst two of the F-15E squadrons have been effectively grounded, the 56th are to remain at combat mission ready status through to September. From a photography point, the 56th HH-60s were located at 202 Squadrons dispersal, right next to the fence at Lossiemouth. This drew quite large crowds of photographers daily, and the Pavehawk crew were happy to talk about their mission during Joint Warrior.

Finally, two German “civilian” aircraft were present – a Gates Learjet 35A operated by Gesellschaft für Flugzieldarstellung (GFD), and a Pilatus PC-9 from EIS Aircraft. The Learjet is often used as a target towing aircraft, but deployed to Joint Warrior with a targeting pod under the starboard wing. The PC-9 is operated for tactical air threat simulation, and during Joint Warrior simulated various aircraft types such as A-10Cs, to provide training to Forward Air Controllers.

RAF Leuchars

Leuchars often sees combat aircraft deployed during Joint Warrior, with 12-2 seeing a contingent of German Air Force Tornados. For 13-1, the level of deployment was somewhat more impressive, with an entire French Navy Carrier Air Wing. The French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle deployed her contingent of Dassault Rafale M, Super Etendard M and E-2C Hawkeye aircraft. 7 Rafales, 8 Super Etendards and a single E-2C (which was replaced by another example at the end of week 1) arrived at Leuchars in the week leading up to the exercise. Rafales had previously deployed to Leuchars in 2009 for Joint Warrior 09-1, but this exercise was the first deployment for the Super Etendard – and possibly one of the last, with the type slated for replacement by the Rafale M in 2015.

The Rafales (callsign “Kimono”) and Super Etendards (callsign “Quaker”) used the deployment to practise weapons employment, frequenting the Spadeadam, Cape Wrath and Tain ranges to perform live firing with cannons and practise bombing. Both types were operating with Forward Air Controllers on the ground, practising Combat Air Support against ground targets.

The single E-2C was deployed as an Airborne Early Warning aircraft, controlling the fast air assets in much the same manner as it would aboard the Charles de Gaulle. The French Navy operates three of the type with Flotille 4F (whilst an additional aircraft has been ordered), and is the only nation to operate them from aircraft carriers besides the United States.

The Royal Air Force was also present at Leuchars, with locally assigned 6(F) Squadron participating, both with and against the French forces – whilst still maintaining the Northern Quick Reaction Alert duties – often Russian Tupolev Bear aircraft are encountered monitoring the exercise. 100 Squadron deployed five of their Hawks from RAF Leeming to Leuchars, and operated throughout the exercise in the aggressor role.

Both RAF Leuchars and Lossiemouth are seemingly well aware of the interest the deployed aircraft bring from the UK (and European!) aviation enthusiast community, and this year both bases organised an enthusiast day to allow visitors to get up close to the assets involved – an opportunity gratefully received by all those who secured a place to attend.

AeroResource would like to thank the teams at both Lossiemouth and Leuchars for the access provided during the enthusiast days, and also extend our thanks to the Scottish enthusiast community in general – whose hospitality during the exercise should be an example to us all!