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International Exercise ELITE 2004; Lechfeld, May 3, 2004

Electronic Warfare Live Training Exercise; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The exercise ELITE 2004 took place in the southern region of Germany from Monday, May 3, 2004, until Thursday, May 13, 2004. The Live Flying exercise took place in the region of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg. The fighters from the NATO members who participated in the exercise flew from Lechfeld, near Augsburg.

The exercise ELITE is a complex Electronic Warfare training. The abbreviation ELITE stands for Electronic Warfare Live Training Exercise. The exercise ELITE is a continuation of the education of the flying units, the managers and the ground crew in a realistic war scenario. The exercise is fully focused on working with weapons, such as; surface to air missiles and attacking these installations. Various weapons of the NATO partners are frequently used during a war scenario. The intention is to work together with several partners under all conditions. The growing number of partici- pants confirms the level of the exercise. The exercise is leading within the NATO when it comes to Electronic Warfare. New elements in Electronic Warfare are practiced and new tactics are developed during this exercise. The efficiency and capability of individual units are upgraded. This is already a fact when units are participating in an exercise like this. The exercise contains all the necessary elements of Electronic Warfare. The preparation for ELITE started on Friday, April 30. The participating pilots had a special briefing containing the rules in German airspace around this exercise. The countries which are participating in the exercise ELITE, are; Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey and Sweden. After the briefing, the pilots flew a short reconnaissance flight over the area where the exercise took place. There are 2 flight corridors defined from Lechfeld to the practice area. The corridor which will be used depends on the point of view of the scenario. The minimum flying height in these corridors is 150 meters. A height of 75 meters is allowed in the actual training area. Besides the flying participants, there are also ground troops from Austria, Slovakia and Switzerland involved in the exercise. Poland and Hungary had sent observers to ELITE for a possible future participation.

The exercise was actually started with the first mass take-off on Monday, May 3. In total 28 aircraft participated in ELITE 2004. All units were stationed at Lechfeld for a period

of 2 weeks. The German Luftwaffe is participating during ELITE with 2 Tornado reconnaissance fighters from Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 (AG-51) from Schleswig-Jagel. The Tornado ECR aircraft from Jagdbombergeschwader 32 (JBG-32) from Lechfeld are extensively involved in the exercise as well. The German units are supported by a number of Bo-105P Bölkow helicopters from Heeserfliegerregiment 36 (HFR-36) from Fritzlar. The Greek Air Force is represented by the 341 Mira from Neon Anchialos Air Base. The unit was present with 3 F-16C/D fighter aircraft and 38 people on the ground. The unit celebrated its 50th anniversary in June 2004. The British Royal Air Force joins the exercise with the no 9 Squadron from RAF Marham from Norfolk, UK. The unit is present with 6 Tornado GR4 attack aircraft and has a ground crew of 90 people. The squadron celebrates its 90th anniversary later this year. The Italians are participating during ELITE with the no 155 Squadron of the 50° Stormo based at Piacenza. The unit is involved with 6 planes of the type Tornado ECR and 53 people are present on the ground. This unit participated for the 7th time in this exercise. The Turkish Air Force participates in the exercise with the no 151 Filo from the 5th Air Base Merzifon. The Turks are represented with 6 F-16C/D aircraft and 49 ground emplo- yees. The last air force taking part in ELITE 2004 is the Swedish Air Force. The Swedes take part in the exercise with 4 TK-37E Viggens of F21 from Lulea Air Base in Swedish Lapland. The Swedes had a total of 42 people on the ground with them. This is their second participation at ELITE.

When I arrived at Lechfeld the weather looked good. The sun was shining and the sky was clear blue. The location of the landing was very hard to find. The area around Lechfeld is official military area. You are not allowed to stay in the landing of the airbase. The only thing I could do was low profile spotting during the recovery of the morning flight. The planes were already gone when I arrived. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing from the east and the landing area is not the most ideal position around Lechfeld. I was not able to shoot any photos during the morning flight recovery. The incoming aircraft flew too high and therefore I was not able to shoot some decent landing photos. After the recovery, I decided to go to the other side of the airbase for the departing planes during the afternoon flight. Also this side of the airbase was not easy to find. This side of the runway is officially military terrain as well. The wind turned to the west in the meanwhile; the aircraft would leave in the other direction. The first aircraft were ready to depart at 2 pm for the afternoon ELITE mission. Unfortunately, the runway at Lechfeld is not visible, because the airfield is built on higher ground than the surrounding terrain. All the participants had left in a period of 30 minutes. I had to wait until the recovery for a few decent photos. The first participants returned to Lechfeld after more than one hour. Photographing in the landing at this side of the base was much easier than on the other side. The first planes which returned were the Swedish Viggens. These aircraft were my main goal of my visit to ELITE. There were only 2 of the 4 Viggens involved in the afternoon mission. The Viggen will be phased out in the near future. The Viggens will be replaced by the Saab Grippen. This exercise is probably the last time that I can photograph the Viggen. Shortly after the landing of the Viggens, the 4 British Tornados appeared in a formation over the field; they went into the break above the base. The 2 Greek F-16s returned together with 2 German Tornados from Lechfeld. The 2 Turkish F-16s arrived at Lechfeld in a formation with 2 Tornados from AG-51. The 2 German Tornados carried a photo reconnaissance pod under the fuselage. The 4 Italian Tornados returned shortly after the Turkish F-16s. The 8 German JBG-32 Tornados returned at the end of the recovery wave. My visit to Lechfeld ended after the landing of the last Tornado. At the end of the day I returned to Ramstein where I would spend another 2 days.

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