Bill Cardno gets close to the action during Exercise Neptune Warrior 07/2
From Monday 17 September until Friday 28th, RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth were hosts to the various air assets taking part in Exercise Neptune Warrior 07/2. Neptune Warrior is a bi-annual exercise that has superseded the old tri-annual Joint Maritime Course (JMC), the aim of the exercise being to enable the participating nations to work together in close co-operation, formulate strategy, tactics and common procedures in a maritime environment. This year Lossiemouth had five French Mirage 2000Ns and two Rafale Ms as well as 1 Squadron RAF Harrier GR9/9As based there; a short distance away Kinloss was temporary home to three P-3C Orions from the United States Navy, a P-3K from New Zealand, a CP-140 Aurora from Canada and a French Navy Atlantique 2 and E-2C Hawkeye. FR Aviation Falcon 20s and FRADU Hawks were also at Kinloss.
On Wednesday 26th, the Leuchars Aviation Group was fortunate to have a base visit to both Lossiemouth and Kinloss. Leaving Edinburgh at 04:30 on a cold but dry morning, the drive to Lossiemouth passed uneventfully apart from the car thermometer falling to 2.5 degrees! After a quick drive around the airfield to ascertain the wind direction and what had been pulled from the hangars for the day's flying, we settled by the fence at runway 05 to see the training sorties carried out by the local based squadrons and wait until the appointed time for the base visit. The weather was dry and overcast as forecast, but with the possibility of sunshine later on. On the brief trip round the airfield, we saw the French Mirage 2000Ns of EC 004 sitting on 14 Squadron’s ramp, in front of which were the Harriers of 1 Squadron in the process of being uncovered. Also of note were four Beech King Airs from 45(R) Squadron, up from Cranwell for an overnight stop.
After a few movements from 15(R) Squadron, it was time to head for the car park at the main gate where we were to be issued with car passes and temporary ID cards. A short drive in convoy took us to the visitor’s car park where we embarked on a bus which took us to the caravan at the end of runway 05. From this somewhat noisy but excellent vantage point we were able to watch the exercise’s first wave of the day taxi out in front of us and take off. We spent two hours at the caravan and saw the exercise traffic of Rafales, Mirages, Harriers and the based squadron Tornados depart to do battle. Then it was onboard the bus again and back to our cars for the second visit of the day at Kinloss.
Once at Kinloss, it was back onboard another bus (identical to the Lossie one!) which took us on base to the 56(R) Squadron line where we had about fifteen minutes to photograph nine of the Tornado F3s. The Squadron was 'bolt-holing' at Kinloss while the runway at Leuchars was being repaired and upgraded - this was to be its last day at Kinloss as it was departing south to its home base on the Thursday, as the runway work was now completed.
We were then transported to the VASS where, along with a French E-2C Hawkeye of 4F, there were no fewer than five of Lockheed’s family of maritime patrol aircraft sitting. Of the three USN P-3Cs, only one had a tail code - this was 'LY', suggesting that it may belong to VP-92. The New Zealand P-3K was no stranger to these shores, having appeared at Fairford and Waddington in past years. After an hour on the VASS two FRADU Hawks returned from their mission and it was back on the bus to take us off base - the end of two excellent visits, although the temperature had only peaked at 7.5!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rab Anderson (Chair & Trips/Visits Secretary Leuchars Aviation Group) for arranging the visits, Flt Lt Ronnie Metcalf of RAF Lossiemouth and PRO Fiona Carle of RAF Kinloss for gaining us access to the bases and making the visits a resounding success.