Some of Europe’s finest air forces took part in a massive military exercise at RAF Lossiemouth yesterday – but two crucial nations missed out due to conflicts in the Middle East.
Exercise Joint Warrior gave the RAF, and the German and Swedish Air Forces a precious chance to carry out collaborate training and simulate a range of real life scenarios using fast jets.
However, participating squadrons from the Belgian Air Component and the United States Air Force were forced to pull out after being deployed to live missions in Iraq and Syria to face exactly the type of scenario Joint Warrior is designed to replicate.
More than 50 jets took to the skies above Lossiemouth for what is the biggest annual military exercise in Europe.
And while flying in a fickle Scottish climate was described as “challenging” by several air crew members, it was the challenges of the current international climate that all the forces involved agreed made training exercises like Joint Warrior so important.
Speaking about yesterday’s exercise, exercise planner Squadron Leader Duncan Laisney said: “Joint Warrior is designed primarily to help our headquarters staff train and validate.
“Whilst it’s unfortunate that real world events made the Americans and the Belgians withdraw, the exercise still delivers the high end training that the other participants want to get out of it.”
Captain Kai Pieters, German Air Force weapons system operator with 51 Typhoon Squadron, said: “This is my first time in Scotland, and the weather has been challenging for sure.
“It’s hard work being a pilot, but it’s the coolest job in the world.
“The training and preparation is very good. The only difference, is with exercises like this is you look at and add real life to what you would see in the simulator.
“Some missions you relax a little more. Other missions you are tense throughout.
“Exercises like this help you to relax more when flying as you gain more experience and the more relaxed you are the more you see and the more self-confident you become.
“The Belgians and the Americans had to pull out because they had to go to the Middle East, and it just shows how important these missions are because they are out there doing it for real. Any of us could be deployed to a situation at any time.”
Commander of 171 Squadron Sweden Gripen, Adam Nelson, said: “There will always be some difficulties with language in contingency operations, and it’s a bit of work, but this exercise gives us training focused more on international co-operation, which is very good.”