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CSAR Missions and Close Air Support; Florennes, July 10, 2002

Tactical Leadership Program 2002/4; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The fourth TLP edition of 2002 was an exercise which had an increased emphasis in the last week. The extra element contained CSAR missions. There were also a lot helicopters present at Florennes. For close air support units, this is a difficult exercise. The air defenses had to keep the air clean at the same time.

The fourth TLP of 2002 took place from mid-June to mid-July. The first arrivals were coming in on Friday June 14, 2002. The other participants arrived at Florennes as well on Monday, June 17, and Tuesday, June 18. These first days are for the participants’ usually academic training days. The flights will be practiced in theory and are later executed in a practical mission after these days. On Friday, July 12, the participants returned home after following a course of four weeks. This edition of the TLP was again fully booked. The TLP is an international training course in which the European participants will jointly enter action in conflicts. In addition to NATO members are also often Partnership for Peace (PfP) countries involved in the exercise. During this edition of the TLP eight Belgian F-16s participated in the exercises. All F-16s which flew along during the TLP came from Florennes and were of the 2 Wing. Observers during the TLP were flown in by three Belgian A-109 helicopters. The Danish Air Force flew during this TLP mission along with two F-16s from Aalborg. Later in the third week another two aircraft entered the exercise as external assets. The French joined with the Mirage 2000N from the French airbase Luxeuil. Also the French flew along with three Mirage F1CT aircraft during the TLP. These Mirages were from Colmar-Meyenheim. In the last week also a French C-160 Transall participated in the TLP.

JBG-32 from Germany took part with three Tornado ECR aircraft. These aircraft are specialized in electronic warfare. JG-72 (FLZ) from Rheine-Hopsten flew during the TLP along with four F-4F Phantoms. Two of these aircraft flew along since the third week as external assets. Besides the Luftwaffe also the German Marineflieger flew along during the TLP. MFG-2 operated with three Tornado IDS aircraft during the international training. The Hellenic Air Force participated with two Mirages 2000EG. Later in the third week two more aircraft came to Florennes to serve as opponents for the students. The units are derived from the 331 Mira. The Italian Air Force flew along

in the exercise with more than six Tornado IDSs. These aircraft were all from the 6° Stormo/102° Gruppo and the 6° Stormo/154° Gruppo from the Italian airbase Ghedi. The Italians also joined with two HH-3F helicopters of the 15° Stormo. The Italian Army flew during the CSAR mission along with two A129 Mangusta helicopters. These helicopters were from the 49° Gruppo. Besides these helicopters also an AB-212 flew along of the 53° Gruppo during the CSAR mission. The Spanish air force was at Florennes represented with no less than six F-18s. Three planes were of the type EF-18A from Ala 12 at Torrejón. The other three planes were F/A-18As from Ala 46 from Gando. The USAFE was the last participant in the TLP. The Americans flew along with three F-16Cs which came from the 510th FS at Aviano in Italy. The Americans flew also along with three A-10A Thunderbolts of the 52nd FS from Spangdahlem.

After the arrivals and the first two days of theory, flight training began during the TLP on Wednesday, June 19. During this first day, immediately a small problem became visible. One of the German Phantoms had a technical problem and makes a precautionary landing at another airfield. In case of doubt due to minor technical defects is chosen to abort the flight. The aircraft will divert to the nearest airfield. The aircraft would return later after an inspection back at Florennes. During the mission a scenario was flown over northern Belgium and the North Sea. On Tuesday, June 25, the Spanish pilots made a mistake. The aircraft came in during the recovery via the wrong runway. The F-18 suddenly was on final for runway 26L instead of the runway 26R. At the last moment the control tower of Florennes saw this and aborted the landing of the aircraft. The aircraft was sent around. These types of situations can be very dangerous, because at the same time aircraft which had landed just before were taxiing back to the platform on runway 26L. On Wednesday, June 26, a Belgian A-109 had technical problems after the start of the entire TLP mission. Shortly after the last start, the helicopter returned again back at Florennes. A nice fact is that one of the pilots of the A-10 which participates in the TLP is a female pilot. It is the first time that there is a female participant at the TLP. Overall, the TLP is a man's world, like in many other major military exercises. With the Americans it is nowadays normal to have female pilots flying along in their units. In Europe this trend is now increasing as well.

On Thursday, June 27, the situation went terribly wrong again during a TLP mission. The mission of this day would go to France, where the pilots would train on the Polygone Range. This range is located south of Luneville in northern France. Around 3 o'clock pm an American A-10 went down in the vicinity of this range. The aircraft had no live weapons on board. This year it is already the second time that an accident happened during a TLP mission. During the previous edition also an Italian F-104S Starfighter was crashed on the runway at Leeuwarden Air Base. The A-10 which crashed this time was the 82-0655/SP. The rest of the aircraft could safely return to Florennes. Immediately after the news of the crash was announced, all other planes which were in the air were called back to Florennes. On Monday, July 1 was no TLP mission flown, because participants had an academic day. On Thursday, July 11, the TLP mission had again a setback. About 10 minutes after the last TLP participants were airborne a Greek Mirage encounters with an emergency message. The Mirages flew high over Florennes going to dump as much fuel as possible. Then the aircraft Mirage 2000EG 237 came in for an emergency landing. The plane had a technical problem and it was immediately decided to abort the mission. On Friday, July 12, the TLP course was ended. The participants would return home on this day. Many transport aircraft would come in to pick up ground personnel and ground equipment.

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