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Cross Service Exercise Ample Train; Volkel, April 12, 2006

Training on Different Types; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The only flying day during the exercise Ample Train at Volkel Air Base was on Wednesday, April 12, 2006. It was a long time ago that an exercise like Ample Train was held at this air base in Brabant. The main goal of the exercise is to train the ground personnel on different aircraft types within the NATO.

The purpose of the exercise Ample Train is to improve the cooperation of ground personnel of the NATO countries. This concerns the maintenance of the aircraft before, during and after the flight. The ground personnel are working during the exercise on the operational aircraft of the other NATO members. This is of course under the guidance of an instructor who works daily with these types of aircraft. In this way, the crew chiefs learn to deal with multiple aircraft types which are used within the NATO. The big advantage is that the ground crew can flexibly be deployed during military operations throughout the world. Therefore the majority of the exercise takes place on the ground. The exercise lasts for a whole week from Monday, April 10, 2006 until Thursday, April 13, 2006. The main objective of this exercise is to load and unload weapons on various aircraft types. This results in fully loaded aircraft during the flying exercise. All aircraft were loaded with an ordinance on its hard points. Loading weapons like the AMRAAM missile or an external fuel tank on different aircraft types requires a different procedure. The main part of the exercise is to learn the structure of the various aircraft. Each aircraft type has its own procedures to be followed when loading such systems. The same type of rocket or pod can be loaded in a different way on different aircraft types. After one week, the crew chiefs are able to perform these basic operations on these various types.

The participants of the exercise came from different parts of Europe. Besides the Dutch F-16s from Volkel, there were six other countries which participated in this exercise. The Turks came with three of their F-16s to Volkel. The F-16s were from the Turkish air base Ankara/Akinci where they are assigned to 143 Filo. Besides the Turks, the Greeks participated as well with two of their F-16s. These aircraft came from the Greek base Chania/Souda where they are assigned to 343 Mira. The United

States Air Force joined the exercise as well with four of their F-15E Strike Eagles. The Eagles were from RAF Lakenheath and they are assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron which is part of the 48th Fighter Wing. The Tornados of the German Luftwaffe were from Büchel. The two Tornado IDS fighter bombers were from Jagdbombergeschwader 33 (JBG33). The fifth country that participated next to the Netherlands was Belgium. The Belgians flew with two F-16s of the 10th Wing from Kleine-Brogel. The sixth and last country which participated was Italy. This country joined the exercise with two Tornado IDS fighter bombers. The planes were both from the Italian base Brescia/Ghedi where they are assigned to the 6° Stormo “Alfredo Fusco”. Some of the participants were already present at Volkel on Friday, April 7. The majority of the participants for the Ample Train 2006 exercise arrived on Monday, April 10. The aircraft went back home after the last day on Thursday, April 13, 2006.

I noticed I was not the only person who arrived at Volkel at about 9 am. It was already quite busy at the parking lot of the air base. Luckily there was still a spot for my car. I walked to the far corner of the spotter area with my stepladder in my hand. I placed my stepladder near the other spotters and I was ready for action. The weather today was not the best weather. It was dark all day and there were a few showers from time to time. It would not take long before the first action took place. The air base security carried out a number of sharp checks at the fence. They drove in armored vehicles over the taxi track. The first plane which appeared at the head of the runway was a Dutch F-16. This aircraft was soon followed by one of the highlights of the day. These were the two Turkish F-16s from Ankara. Both F-16s stopped at the holding point for the aircraft and I was able to shoot a few great shots of it. It was a challenge to get the aircraft in focus on my film because the weather conditions were very dark. I always use standard ISO200 film while shooting. Higher ISO values will add too much grain on the film. Nevertheless, I succeeded to catch the F-16s nice and sharp. A couple of American F-15E Strike Eagles appeared immediately after the Turks. These aircraft are really big when you see them next to the F-16. The Dutch F-16 and the Turkish F-16s were the first aircraft which departed. The Turkish F-16 formation consisted of a single and a dual F-16. The two Strike Eagles were armed with AMRAAM missiles.

The next aircraft appeared at the head of the runway after a brief silence. This time the two German Tornados appeared. The aircraft wore the color scheme of the already disbanded Marinefliegergeschwader 2 (MFG-2). The Tornados were only a few minutes on the holding platform. Both aircraft taxied to the runway where they lined up after a short stop for the last flight checks. Both Tornados went one by one airborne with full afterburner. The aircraft were very heavy and they moved very slowly on the first meters during take-off. A few Dutch F-16s entered the runway after the departure of the Germans. The only Italian Tornado which participated during the flying exercise entered the runway shortly after the F-16s. This large aircraft turned its nose towards me in front of my lens. This brought me some amazing pictures of the Tornado. Also 2 Belgian F-16s entered the holding point. The Tornado took off shortly after the departure of the Belgians. My second highlight appeared in the meanwhile. These were the two Greek F-16s. The dual F-16 was an F-16D block-52 with a high back behind the cockpit. It was the first time I saw an F-16 of this type. A Dutch F-16 and a single American Strike Eagle would depart as well after the take-off of these planes. It started to rain after the departure of the aircraft. Therefore I decided not to stay for the recovery of the aircraft. I had already 3.5 film container of 36 photos in the pocket. A few aircraft were already back at Volkel. I decided to go home. The number of special aircraft was great for a morning at Volkel Air Base.

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