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  • Mike Danks

Cobra Warrior 2019

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

2019’s edition of the Cobra Warrior (CW) exercise ran between the 1st – 20 September and was held this year at RAF Waddington. This large-scale tactical training exercise acts as the capstone for the RAF and is designed to conclude the training of the Qualified Weapons Instructor (QWI), Qualified Multi-engine Tactics Instructor (QMETI), QWI Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (QWI ISR) and Qualifies Space Instructor (QSI) students. International participation this year was from Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy and the USA.

The exercise aims to develop tactical skills of aircrew and supporting elements with a Composite Air Operation (COMAO) and provides valuable training opportunities for all participating Force Elements to practice and develop tactics, techniques and procedures in complex scenarios against near peer adversary.

It was not only RAF Waddington that played its part in Cobra Warrior with many other bases across the UK participating including, RAF Boulmer, RAF Brize Norton, RAF Coningsby, RAF Fairford, RAF Leeming, RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Marham, RAF Mildenhall, RAF Odiham and RAF Spadeadam.


Group Captain Robert Barrett spoke to the gathered media on the 17th September 2019. Group Captain Barrett was the exercise director for CW and works at RAF Waddington at the Air Warfare Centre. His role for CW was to ensure that all participants achieved all their objectives, to replicate the Head Quarters Command for CW and overall responsibility for the safety during CW to ensure that all participants worked in accordance to the safety rules.

Group Captain Barrett explained that during the flying portion of CW there were 50 aircraft participating in the form of fast jets, ISR, air refuelling tankers, simulated Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and helicopters. The aircraft participating were not all based at RAF Waddington with many flying from their home bases and others flying from their home country

Participants in Cobra Warrior flew from: -


· RAF Eurofighter Typhoons based at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby

· 4 x Aeronautica Militare Eurofighter F-2000A from 36 Stormo, RAF Waddington

· 10 x Luftwaffe Eurofighter EF-2000 from TLG73, RAF Waddington

· 7 x Israeli Air Force F-15C/D Eagles from 106 Squadron (Sqn), RAF Waddington

· RAF Sentinal R.1 from 5 Squadron, RAF Waddington

· RAF E-3D Sentry from 8 Squadron, RAF Waddington

· RAF Shadow R1 from 14 Squadron, RAF Waddington

· RAF RC-135 Airseeker from 51 Squadron, RAF Waddington

· RAF Chinook

· AAC Apache

· Cobham Dassault Falcon 20, Durham-Tees

· RAF Voyager KC.2/3, RAF Brize Norton

· Luftwaffe A310 MRTT, RAF Brize Norton

· Israeli Air Force KC-707 Re’em, RAF Waddington

The foreign participants were not just involved in the flying portion of CW but were embedded in the Command and Control and intelligence aspects as well creating a more realistic exercise. To ensure that the participants were gaining what they needed from CW they bought with them their instructor staff to RAF Waddington.

Its is not only military staff that help to make CW a success but there are several civilian contractors that act as a white force to help provide a framework and structure of the exercise and support the military personnel.

There are only nine CW missions flown over the three-week period. This is due to the complex planning for each of these missions and the brief before and the post mission debrief. The other flying that occurs during CW allows further training needs to be completed including multinational missions, operating in an unknown environment and air to air refuelling.

The main operating area for Cobra Warrior was over the North Sea off the coast of Newcastle at a medium flight level. There were some aspects that were completed at the electronic warfare range at RAF Spadeadam and across Northumberland when helicopter assets were in use.


Israeli Air Force

Brig. Gen. Ein-Dar was drafted into the flight academy in 1987 and in 1991 he completed his first operational training as an F-16 pilot. He has commanded both 115 Sqn ‘The Flying Dragon Squadron’ at Ovda and 253 Sqn ‘The Negev Squadron’ at Ramon.

From 2010 to 2013, he served as Head of the Campaign Planning Department, and the as Head of the Operations Department from 2013 to 2014. In 2014, he assumed command of Ramat-David AFB. The General assumed command of the IAF Air Division in October 2017.


106 Squadron ‘Tip of the Spear’ are based at Tel Nof Air Base and fly the McDonnell Douglas, now Boeing, F-15B/C/D Baz. Tel Nof, also know at Air Force Base 8, is one of three principal IAF bases located in central Israel. 106 Sqn has been flying the F-15 since 1982 and grew in numbers and variants over the coming decades. The Baz has seen many upgrades over the years with many not being able to be seen externally. One of the main noticeable visual differences is the fitting of the Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT) or FAST packs (Fuel and Sensor Tactical Packs). These are fitted to the United States Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles and export variants but not retrofitted to their F-15C/Ds. The CFTs have allowed the role of the Baz to expand into being a potent ground attack platform able to fly further with a varied array of ordnance and sensors.

Aeronautica Militare


Airspeed Media spoke to Captain Marco Setini who was leading the Aeronautica Militare (AM) contingent at CW. He said that the participation of the AM is dedicated to two pilots who will to graduate as Weapons Instructors after CW with other crews gaining skills in the shadow waves. The interoperability between the nations involved has been great, especially with the other Typhoon users and its been a real challenge to fly with the best crews the other nations have on this exercise.

Captain Setini joined the Aeronautica Militare in 1999 and is the Plans and Operations Section Chief of 4th Wing Ops Group. After completion of fast-jet flying training, Captain Setini first flew the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and then in 2005, following the F-104’s retirement then retrined to fly General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon before training to fly the Eurofighter Typhoon.

In 2012, Capitain Setini became the Operational Conversion Unit Instructor and also helped to create the Italian Weapon Instructor course.

During exercise Cobra Warrior Captain Setini is acting as the Executive Officer and Tactical Mentor for the flying operations.

The AM Eurofighter Typhoon 4th Wing, based at Grosseto Air base, provides specifically Airspace Alarm Service 365 days a year, 24hrs a day as part of the air defence network in Italy. Among the tasks is the prevention of terrorist attacks from ‘slow movers’ such as gliders and ultralights and also to assist military or civilian aircraft in distress. In most cases these interventions on the civilian aircraft are ones showing suspicious behaviours in flight due to loss of radio contact or unjustified deviations from authorised flight planes and/or a lack of a planned overflight permit.


Luftwaffe


Luftwaffe Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Blankschan spoke to Airspeed Media and gave us an insight on the goals for the Luftwaffe.

The 10 Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoons were used throughout Cobra Warrior and acts as the final part of the Luftwaffe Qualified Weapons Instructor course. The aircraft were used heavily during the shadow waves as well to expose younger air crews to an exercise of this scale.

With this high number of aircraft, it allowed the Luftwaffe to have two dedicated pilots, creating a single point of contact, to act as Red Air (adversary) aircraft, along with other participants, during each mission of CW. They flew 18 Red Air missions across the entirety of the exercise and also flew 54 blue air missions.

The other aspects of training that was achieved during Cobra Warrior was Air to Air Refuelling (AAR), which were all live contacts, and it also gave the opportunity for the Luftwaffe to complete this with the RAF Voyager KC.2 as well as their own Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) A310. There were opportunities for missions with the 5th generation F-35Bs Lightning IIs during CW creating a different challenge for the Luftwaffe pilots.


Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 73 “Steinhoff” is a fighter wing based in North-eastern Germany at Rostock – Laage airport near the city of Rostock. The main task of TLG 73 is the training of all Luftwaffe Eurofighter pilots. Additionally to this task TLG 73 provide support to TLG 74 “R” in securing Germanys air space.


Thank you to all the members of the Royal Air Force, Aeronautica Militare, Israeli Air Force and Luftwaffe for speaking to Airspeed Media and especially Flying Officer Ashton for the organisation of the media day.

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About the editor

Michael Lintott-Danks has worked in forestry for two decades but the passion for aviation has always been high. Photography has now given Michael the opportunity to get closer to the action and he has worked with many air forces close to home and further afield.  

 

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