RAF takes on Arctic challenge
Royal Air Force aircraft and personnel are training on an exercise in Sweden alongside eight other nations to work together in building collective security.
Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE) is one of Europe’s largest air force exercises with 140 aircraft and 4000 troops from the UK (RAF), Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and USA, supported by NATO assets, coming together from 22 May – 4 June to test their effectiveness in a realistic threat environment.
Corporal Tania Barr, 30, Logistics Mover from RAF Lossiemouth said:
“It’s interesting seeing how the Swedish work compared to us. They’ve been really helpful in hosting us and everyone seems to be working really well together. I love going to new places and I’ve never been to Sweden.”
Located at Luleå-Kallax air base, the RAF is contributing 155 personnel from 14 RAF stations to support its seven aircraft on the exercise: five Typhoon fast-jets, one Hercules tactical transport aircraft and one Voyager transport aircraft.
Each day sees up to 100 aircraft fly simultaneously in the exercise area which extends across the airspaces of Sweden, Finland and Norway. The pilots from each nation take part in simulated scenarios to practice their combat air skills, alternating between playing the role of enemy or ally.
Flight Lieutenant Craig Allison, 28, Typhoon pilot at RAF Lossiemouth said:
“Getting to ‘fight’ against a Swedish Gripen jet has been my favourite moment so far; it’s good fun to see what we can do against each other and how differently we like to fly. We don’t often get to participate with 100 aircraft all airborne at the same time, so it’s quite a unique experience.”
The RAF’s Typhoons fly alongside Swedish Gripens; F-18s from Finland and the US; F-16s from Norway, Denmark and the US; and the Rafale and Mirage from France.
By taking part in the exercise, the nine participating air forces share knowledge and learn from each other to strengthen their interoperability. Personnel are tested in various disciplines including:
• Threat evasion tactics such as low-level flying
• Aerial resupply (load drops) to friendly forces
• Search and rescue
• Air-to-air refueling
The exercise is uniquely operated from three airbases in three different countries, adding further complexity to already demanding missions. This trains personnel for the possibility of working this way with other nations on future operations.
On 27 May, British and American personnel were welcomed to Sweden with a visit to Luleå-Kallax air base from Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess of Sweden, who met with personnel and took a tour of the British, Swedish and American fast jets.
“ACE 19 is an opportunity for us to train with our allies to improve our interoperability and ensure we’re capable of contributing to the collective security of Europe and NATO,” said the UK Commander for ACE 19; Wing Commander Matt D’Aubyn, Officer Commanding 6 Squadron and Typhoon pilot at RAF Lossiemouth.
“Flying alongside the pilots from other nations is great because there’s always that slight competition: you always want to prove yourselves and so far the UK contingent is performing very well.”
Arctic Challenge Exercise is hosted between the air forces of Sweden, Finland and Norway and this year is led by the Swedish Air Force.
Top image: A pilot maneuvers in a C-130J Hercules 47 Squadron, based a Brize Norton, performing a low-level sortie over Northern Sweden and the Artic Circle. Photo by SAC Anna Lythgoe RAuxAF.