Exercise Joint Warrior 16-2
RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland
The latest instalment of the bi-annual wargame exercise ‘Joint Warrior’ (JW 16-2) ran from 9th-21st October 2016, which saw members of the AIA team travel up to RAF Lossiemouth to cover the airborne element of proceedings.
Sixteen NATO and partner nations took part in the UK led tri-service exercise that involved a number of aircraft, warships, and ground based troops. However, JW 16-2 saw a first in the guise of what the Royal Navy dubbed its inaugural ‘robot wars’. For the first time on such a large scale exercise, the Royal Navy invited the extensive use of unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned amphibious vehicles from militaries and manufacturers. This phase of the exercise ran under the title of Unmanned Warrior, although it was very much interlinked with the overall operation.
Orchestrated from Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Clyde by the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS), a programme of exercises were planned to take place across the UK designed to engage participants and operate as a multi-national coalition. Although Joint Warrior accounts for scenarios in the air, on land and out to sea, the latter traditionally hosts the majority of action; with operations stretching from the Atlantic and the Irish Sea, North up to Cape Wrath and East across to the Moray Firth. Most of the air based action descends on the ranges at Tain and Cape Wrath as well as RAF Spadeadam, the former two being utilised for live ordinance from aircraft as well as warships. As previously mentioned though, AIA spent time at RAF Lossiemouth, so that is where this article is focussed.
Maritime Patrol Mission
RAF Lossiemouth as ever hosted the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) participating in JW 16-2, which consisted of five combined airframes from the US Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and French Navy. Present were two USN Boeing P-8A Poseidon’s, one each from Patrol Squadron 8 (VP-8) and Patrol Squadron 26 (VP-26), two Canadian Lockheed CP-140 Aurora’s from 405 Maritime Patrol Squadron and a single Dassault Atlantique 2 from Flottille 21F of the French Navy. The only MPA participant not on temporary deployment to Lossie was a German Navy Lockheed P-3C Orion, which operated from its home base at Nordholz Naval Air Station in Germany.
MPA assets unlike previous editions of the exercise did not provide a round-the-clock on station aircraft, this time a single mission or at stretch two were flown each day. Whilst airborne, the MPA aircraft would engage in anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance based activities in support of the naval vessels out at sea. A typical MPA sortie duration for JW 16-2 would result in 5-6 hours on station before returning to RAF Lossiemouth.
Joint Warrior often sees participation from helicopters throughout the exercise, both based from land and aboard ships. This year was no different with a detachment of two Royal Navy Westland Sea King ASac.7’s from 849 Naval Air Squadron operating from RAF Lossiemouth. It is not known exactly how many helicopters operated from ship decks, but a Portuguese Super Lynx and Canadian Sea King were spotted whilst warships departed Faslane (HMNB Clyde) to begin pre-positioning for the task ahead.
849 NAS are the last remaining military operators of Sea King helicopter in the UK based down at RNAS Culdrose. During their deployment to JW 16-2, the two Sea Kings exercised their role as they were involved in Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) working with fast jets and other aircraft. The 'baggers', as they are affectionately known within Navy, would mostly work as singletons but did on occasion depart to work as a pair. When airborne, they were pivotal in practising anti-surface warfare; a role undertaken whilst protecting Royal Navy ships often incorporating submarine detection.
Known rotary assets involved:
Fast Air Involvement
Joint Warrior 16-2 saw fast air participation from both Sweden and Portugal operating JAS-39 Gripen’s and Lockheed Martin F-16’s respectively. The Portuguese took up base at RAF Lossiemouth for the two week period, whilst the Swedish Gripen’s located themselves out of RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire. Both sets of fighters used the deployment to practise weapons engagement whilst frequenting the Spadeadam, Cape Wrath and Tain ranges.
Whilst using these ranges aircraft would undertake live firing, opting for either cannon strafes or bombing runs. Both types corresponded with Forward Air Controllers (FAC) on the ground, whilst also practising Combat Air Support (CAS) against ground targets. An element the Swedish Gripen’s undertook during the exercise, more specifically the JAS-39D model, was ground reconnaissance. This aircraft was heard on radio to be photographing overhead RAF Lossiemouth, former RAF Kinloss and Inverness during the second week of the exercise.
Airborne Electronic Warfare
For JW 16-2, Prestwick Airport was adopted by the Royal Navy as a temporary base for their Hawk T.1’s from 763 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) and also a station for Cobham Aviation’s Dassault DA20 Falcons. Although the Cobham Falcons are civilian operated, they work very closely with the MOD and play a major role in the exercise. Each aircraft is equipped with specialised systems designed to operate in electronic warfare scenarios. They adorn pods for radar and communications jamming, threat simulation and electronic surveillance whilst also acting as hostile airborne targets for the warships. They would often fly at low-level to simulate a sea skimming missile, or provide simulated missile launches while the Navy Hawk’s can track and respond with their defensive systems.
Airborne electronic warfare involvement:
Most of the exercise is wrapped up for debriefing by the second Thursday, seeing many aircraft depart for home. Support aircraft will also arrive to collect equipment and troops used throughout the two week period before themselves heading back home.
As usual Joint Warrior will return in 2017, the first instalment beginning towards the end of March (JW 17-1), and of course the second instalment will return in October (JW 17-2).
Credits: Article and photography by Aaron Paxton