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  • Writer's pictureMike Lintott-Danks

Exercise Cobra Warrior 2023

Exercise Cobra Warrior (CW) 23-1 had a real international feel to it with participants coming from countries around the globe.

As discussed before in previous reports CW is the capstone exercise for the RAF and the wide variety of aircraft from the various air forces add to the realism of CW.

Group Captain Jim Calvert, Exercise Director, explained how the exercise evolved. “What nations and squadrons will do is train their crews to become tactical experts on their individual platforms. What an exercise such as cobra warrior does is it brings all of those platforms together, both UK and partner nations and it allows us to train and integrate together so that we can prove, test and adjust, and enhance our interoperability”

CW is run over a three week period and consists of 8 vulnerability periods (RAF term for the time that the Air Force is practicing war fighting) which occur in the exercise area over the North Sea. During the periods there will be up to 40 aircraft from the participating nations. The campaign for the Cobra Warrior is against a fictitious nation where the Blue forces start in a defensive posture, protecting the homeland and then throughout the exercise moving towards a more aggressive stance and completing surface attack, dynamic targeting and personnel recovery.

Group Captain Calvert continued “Partnership nations all fulfil leadership roles in the mission planning and execution phases. The mission commander, is any one of the 6 participating nations, who is in charge of coming up with a tactic for the mission. All other nations are involved in the planning and will look to exploit all of the particular capabilities that their platforms bring to the party and it is through the planning, where the majority of the learning takes place for war fighting during CW.”

Other than the fast jet platforms there are supporting contingents with the RAF Voyager being one of these assets. This aircraft provides air to air refuelling allowing the jets to spend more time on the exercise area. Air to air refuelling was also provided by USAFE KC-135R Stratotankers form 100th ARW at RAF Mildenhall and the NATO Multi Role Tanker Transport A330 based at Eindhoven. Draken international provided red air assets with Dassault Falcon 20 which integrated with other participants in CW.

With the retirement of the RAF E-3D Sentrys and a number of years away from the entry into service of the Boeing E-7 Wedgetail, the airspace control for CW was provided by the NATO E-3A Sentry flying from Gelsenkirchen Air Base, Germany.

Other aircraft that are involved are helicopters from the Joint Helicopter Command who will be partipating in the personnel recovery phase of the exercise with assets based at RAF Leeming and the military ranges in Northumberland being utilised.


This iteration of Cobra Warrior had three first time nations, Finland, Saudi Arabia and India. The Ilmavoimat arrived with their six F/A-18C Hornets with the support of a Learjet 35 and a civilian SAAB 2000. Lieutenant Colonel Rikkinen Midget 31 Squadron F18, Finnish Air Force said that “crews were from the 31st and 11th Fighter Squadrons and it is really important that the Ilmavoimat participate in this large wave exercise. Many of the personnel have not been on international exercises before and this is a great opportunity to work and fly with other nations.”

The Royal Saudi Air Force have participated in large force exercises in the UK before with both Tornados and EF2000 Typhoons. The six Typhoons arrived in the UK with support from RSAF MRTTs and Lockheed C-130s. The Typhoons were based at RAF Coningsby for the duration of the exercise with the support aircraft arriving at East Midlands airport and RAF Waddington. The aircraft all came from Taif/King Fahd Air Base where the aircraft are part of the RSAF 2nd Wing. This unit has three squadrons flying the Typhoon on active duty at this airbase. These squadrons are; 3 Squadron, 10 Squadron and 80 Squadron.

Major Qaisi Royal Saudi Airforce Typhoon commented that “this is a Great experience and opportunity to fly with different platforms in an intense exercise.”

India has been participating in multiple exercises with various nations in 2023, including SU-30MKIs in Japan and Tejas in the UAE. Cobra Warrior saw the Dassault Mirage 2000 grace the skies of Lincolnshire. The Indian Air Force travelled to the RAF Waddington for Cobra Warrior with more than 145 service men from the air force. The main objective for the Indians was to train and fly against multiple types of fighter aircraft from Europe in complex and dynamic conditions. The participating personnel from India consisted of five Mirage 2000I & 2000TI fighters (two Mirage 2000Is and three Mirage 2000TIs respectively). The Indian Air Force has only one wing that operates with the Dassault Mirage 2000. This unit is the 40th Wing based at Gwalior/Maharajpur Air Force Station which is part of the Central Air Command of India.

The Belgian Air Force sent six F-16AMs, that were supported by Airbus A400s, to CW. These aircraft along with 90 personnel and 13 pilots were involved for the first 2 weeks of the exercise. Captain Glassen, F16 ‘Scat’ Director Operations 349 Squadron Belgium Air Force said “this exercise really helps us to plan and co-ordinate together with multiple different nations and then fly and deliver the mission.”

Thanks to Flight Lieutenant Broome and Ms Furneaux for the invitation to the media day and all of the participating personnel for the opportunity to speak to them directly.

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