A unique exercise that has seen a German Eurofighter detachment join the Royal Air Force detachment currently deployed in Lithuania as part of the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission, has ended.
The exercise was a first, as this is the first time a German Eurofighter detachment has been embedded within an operational RAF Expeditionary Air Wing to allow a sustained period of interoperability training to be carried out. Both Air Forces regularly carry out NATO Air Policing missions and also train together on a regular basis, but this is the first time that the training has been conducted in an operational setting.
The next stage in this training process will be a repeat exercise, but with the roles reversed later in the year. This next exercise will see RAF Typhoons embedded with a German Air Force detachment, when they next conduct Baltic Air Policing.
Wing Commander Stu Gwinnutt, the commander of 135 Expeditionary Air Wing said: “ It’s been an interesting and rewarding exercise working closely with our Luftwaffe colleagues while deployed to Lithuania.
“We have demonstrated a high degree of interoperability with our Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, while highlighting areas of potential for the future. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve learned a lot from each other on a professional basis and made new friends as part of a combined UK-German Team; it’s been one of the may highlights of the deployment so far.
The interoperability training has involved the pilots from RAF Lossiemouth based 6 Sqn RAF flying for nearly two weeks with the pilots from the German Tactical Fighter Wing 71 “Richthofen”. During the exercise, the pilots carried out an intensive package of sorties, with one German and one RAF aircraft, flying as pairs to conduct practice intercepts and what is known as basic fighter manoeuvres.
The pilots then moved on to include ‘scramble starts’ and Quick Reaction Alert take-offs to then carry out further practice intercepts. These practice intercepts were conducted against one of the other 6 Sqn Typhoons which acted as the target aircraft.
The German commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Andy Beckmann said: “It is always very interesting to take part in a multinational mission or exercise. To prove the plug & fight concept has been an even more exciting task because we knew we would have to form a binational team in just two weeks to be able to achieve our goals.
“I am feeling very privileged and honoured to have had the opportunity to lead the Luftwaffe detachment for this challenging project.”
Reflecting on what has been a first for both the RAF and the German Air Force, Lt Col Beckmann also said, “Besides the great hospitality and support of our Lithuanian friends, the biggest memories are the strong team spirit which has been developed between us over the past two weeks and the high motivation each RAF and Luftwaffe soldier showed to build up trust and made things work.
I am looking forward to our next steps. Where the RAF will deploy to Amari in Estonia with us in September; where we will build on our experiences from Siauliai for the plug an & fight concept.