Joris van Boven, Sentry Aviation News, reports from the photoday organised on 1 June at Lechfeld for Exercise ELITE 2005
Each year, towards the end of May and the beginning of June, ELITE (ELectronic Warfare LIve Training Exercise) takes place in southern Germany. The counties of Baden-Württemberg and Bayern are the main areas of this international exercise that started in 1991 and grew to a very well-known and respected multinational one. This year the exercise consisted of both an air-part and a ground-part, which would come together at the 'Truppenübungsplatz (ground exercise area) Heuberg' between 27 May and 9 June.
The air-part consisted of around seventy jet fighters, ten propeller aircraft and some twenty helicopters, hosted by the following airbases in Germany - at Neuburg Spanish Mirage F1s (of which one aircraft sadly crashed) and Belgian F-16s; at Lechfeld Italian Tornados, Turkish F-16s, Greek F-16s, Swedish Viggens (Sk37e) and a Saab 340 AEW; at Landsberg French C-160s and Polish CN-295s. At the Swiss base of Dubendorf were Finnish F-18s. Helicopters were based at Laupheim (Dutch Cougars, AH-64s and Belgian A109s). Homebase flyers were German Tornados and F-4s, French Mirage 2000s from Luxeuil, Swiss F-18s from Dubendorf and USAFE F-16s from Spangdahlem.
Flying two missions per day, the exercise started with some familiarisation flights to get the foreign aircrews acquainted to the German airfields, traffic control and regulations. It was the last official appearance of a Swedish Viggen at an international exercise, as all Viggens will be retired in September. Four Viggens participated in ELITE 2005, three in the well-known Swedish 'green-splinter-pattern' camouflage and one in an all-grey paint scheme. Unfortunately one of the Spanish Mirage F1s crashed after take-off, but without injury to the pilot.
During the exercise, the ground location 'Truppenübungsplatz Heuberg' was heavily attacked by participating ELITE aircraft. There were over a hundred different Electronic Counter Measurement (ECM) and Surface to Air Missile (SAM) sites located at the Heuberg from the ten participating ground forces, totalling 1,700 soldiers. Various systems like CROTALE (France), ROLAND (Germany), RAPIER (UK), GIRAFFE (Sweden), Patriot/Stinger (NL), SA-7 (Poland), etc., were located at the large fifty-square kilometer compound. Low-level limits were reduced to 500 feet (150m) for jets and 50 feet (15m) for helicopters, so all kind of realistic scenarios could be tested by both aircrews and groundcrews.
Acknowledgments: A special 'thank you' to Chief Master Sergeant Erich Seitz (Lechfeld PRO) and Captain Frank Kühnrich (Luftwaffenamt Abt PrInfoZLw)