RAF personnel are conducting Air Traffic Operations and Force Protection at a fictional Deployed Operating Base during a multi-national exercise in southern Germany this week.
Volcanex Dobex (Deployed Operating Base Exercise) 2016, running from 17 to 29 October at Lechfeld Air Base, Bavaria, sees a 600-strong, eight-nation coalition operating the base.
As part of the exercise, European Air Group members Britain, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy are working with Norway to test tactical interoperability and the nations’ readiness to deploy as a multi-national task force.
Participants have coordinated assets, communications and patrols and have faced enemy contact, improvised explosive devices, surface-to-air fire and a helicopter crash outside the wire.
The start of the exercise saw RAF Leeming’s 90 Signals Unit quickly establish communications, navigation aids, a mobile air traffic control tower and mobile radar facilities.
1 Air Control Centre personnel set up a Temporary Landing Zone, using 90 SU’s radar and communications technology to support ground troops. They’ve also provided enemy air activity warnings and directed allied helicopters, fighter jets and UAVs, as well as surveillance, cargo and refuelling aircraft.
34 Squadron RAF Regiment, also from RAF Leeming, provided armed escorts, vehicle check points, patrols and close protection, and responded to incidents inside and outside the wire through Quick Reaction Force deployments. Their Joint Tactical Air Controllers have called in Close Air Support from Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoons when required.
RAF Police personnel are also playing a part, conducting patrols and searches with military working dogs. Taking part are dual-role attack and explosives/arms search dogs Borik, a German Shepherd, and Tyco, a Belgian Malinois, as well as explosives/arms search dog Hodor, a Labrador, and patrol dog Tala, also a Belgian Malinois.
Exercises like Volcanex are important because they improve the RAF’s ability to respond to crises and conflicts with our close allies, and reflect the UK’s commitment to extending our defence relationships and capabilities with European allies.
Squadron Leader Jim McPartlin, OC Tactical Operations (Air Traffic Management), said: “We’ve integrated Air Traffic ops in a multi-national environment during Volcanex, learning a lot from the other nations – and hopefully they’re learning a lot from us.
“We were also able to bring our ‘taxy to target’ capability to the fore; taking aircraft taxying at the airfield all the way through to dropping bombs on target. Within the European Air Group, we’re the only nation that can provide that full capability.
“We also deployed with 90 Signals Unit for the first time since Camp Bastion, combining our capability with their kit. The Air Traffic Ops team, the engineers and the equipment operated under a single command chain, and it worked really well.”