Lyne-up at Lyneham
European Tactical Airlift Meet 2002, RAF Lyneham 12 - 16 August
Neil Dunridge reports - The European tactical airlift meet (ETAM) is a relatively new airlift meet first hosted by the German Air Force at Landsberg air base in 2000, with the second meet being hosted by the French in Toulouse. It was the RAF's turn to host the event this year, and Lyneham was the venue.
In total 18 nations were invited to take part, including PfP nations such as Poland, Czech Air Force, Romania, Hungary and Finland as well as all European countries. Eleven countries replied stating their intention to take part but Sweden and Norway dropped out the week before the meet due to operational commitments. The Belgians were also due to attend but after a number of false starts were unable to take part.
ETAM isn't just about flying, the senior officers hold an airlift symposium where all participating countries discuss the Joint Rapid Reaction Force, in-operability and allsorts of airlift matters. At the end of the symposium they will then decide who will hold the 2005 and 2006 events.
The crews get scored on their flying accuracy - they are given very basic map of the UK which has circles marked for each turning point and a line in-between the two which they should follow as closely as possible. The planners ensure the turning points are accurately marked as the crews will be unfamiliar with the low-level routes in the UK. In reality, if the crews were in Africa on a humanitarian mission they would be given a blank chart.
Each country sends a representative along to fly in other countries aircraft to keep scores - France couldn't supply anyone this year so the RAF provided a replacement. The judges fly on the sorties and down-mark the scores if a waypoint is missed or they change airspeed below or above a set limit. On one sortie a team decided to 'cut the corner' of a waypoint and were docked 150 points, a hefty deficit when the teams are only given 1000 points to start with.
Another crew were docked a number of points as their spot landing was judged to be 'out of the box'. On the spot landing exercise the crews have to land as close to a line on the runway as possible - however there is a limit to how far away you can land from the line and one crew bounced on landing. Despite an appeal they lost points much to the crews disgust.
As the meet progressed the crews are given less and less information and they ended up trying to find out more information themselves. On top of the UK airspace map they were given an OS map with the target run for the drop, usually the turning point will be something that they can positively identify, for example a road or rail junction.
The meet is held over three flying days. The first day includes a harness pack drop which is usually 20 - 100 lbs delivered through the side door at 250 - 300 ft. The crews drop at their national regulated drop height and usually the second day would be a one-tonne load out of the back but because of bad weather the plans had to be changed.
Because of a lost day of flying on Tuesday due to bad visibility in the Devon area it was decided to move Tuesday's flying to the Thursday back-up day. The crews should have flown a 40-minute sortie on the Thursday routing Cirencester - Bristol Channel and then to the drop zone (DZ) at Blackball Firs, but it was decided that there was nothing to gain from flying this short sortie so it was decided to cancel that day's flying completely.
The project leader, Squadron Leader Clover, explained about the exercises and route planning the crews would have to take. "On each sortie there will be a line between the turning point and the Impact Point (IP) to the drop-zone (DZ). The run in heading track will be given in magnetic along with the latitude and longitude. The first day isn't very difficult for the crews, it is basically a day to get the crews used to the UK airspace and low-level system."
"Half way through the planning stage on the second day we will be giving them different threats along the route. Based on two different coalition countries, Druidia to the North West and Devonia to the South West, the scenario is that a terrorist cell is trying to break up the coalition. Each mission will have a purpose, the first day is basically a resupply mission to cut off troops. The second day simulates a Special Forces cell being cut off and they need urgent resupply. The sortie calls for a simulated drop of a battalion of paratroopers (represented by two paratroopers) to reinforce the special forces cell and then fly the aircraft to Keevil to make a spot landing and this will represent an evacuation of civilians."
The third day's exercise called for a one-tonne pallet drop to resupply the paratroopers now on the ground. During the second and third day the planners made the lives of the crews a bit more difficult with the placement of fictional threats along the route, which included SAM-7s and other weapons systems, making their working day that bit harder. There was also a Falcon aircraft provided to perform radio jamming and also to try and confuse the situation with false radio calls, although the crews were warned about this tactic as the last thing the planners wanted was the participating crews scattered all over the United Kingdom.
The eventual winners were the team from France, closely followed by Turkey, with the United Kingdom in third place. The exercise provided all crews to look at and refine their training and operational tasks in ways that they may not have thought of within their own sphere of operations. It is hoped that the crews go away with ideas on how to improve their day-to-day taskings and to pass on their experiences at these meets with their squadron members. Future hosts for European Tactical Airlift Meet will be Turkey in 2003 and Spain in 2004.
The author would like to thank Sqn Ldr Clover, the project officer and Flt Lt Tom Draper, RAF Lyneham CCO for their help with the information supplied.