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Training with the European Tankers; Eindhoven, April 13-24, 2015

European Air Refuelling Training 2015; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

In the coming years, a lot will change for the European tanker units. A joint tanker fleet will be established with the European partners in the near future. The need for such a fleet became clear during the European Air Refuelling Training. This training is held for the second time this year held at the Dutch Eindhoven Air Base.

In the period from April 13 until April 24, 2015, the European Defense Agency (EDA) organized for the second time the European Air Refuelling Training. The training is hosted by the European Air Transport Command (EATC) based at Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands. During the two weeks the participants of the EART will by uniquely trained in a multinational framework. Crews should jointly plan and execute tanker missions during the EART. To provide a realistic training opportunity for the crews of the tankers, the EART is held in parallel to the exercise Frisian Flag at Leeuwarden Air Base. The tanker crews can practice in this way their air to air refuelling skills in a real combat environment which makes the training very realistic. Currently the EART is the only exercise of its kind which is held structurally in Europe. The first edition of the EART was held in 2014 at Eindhoven Air Base. Also that edition of the EART exercise was held in parallel to the exercise Frisian Flag. The training proved to be very effective for the crews of the tankers and therefore a follow-up of the EART was organized this year. During the EART there are four active participants with a tanker at Eindhoven Air Base. The Germans fly with an Airbus A310MRTT from the German airbase Koln-Bonn. The French join the EART with a C-135FR Stratotanker from the French airbase Istres-Le-Tube. In the second week of the EART an Italian Boeing KC-767 will fly along with exercise. This plane is based at the Italian airbase Pratica di Mare. Finally, the Dutch air force participated in the EART with a KDC-10 from Eindhoven Air Base.

The major goal of the EART is to improve the inter-operability among the tanker crews in Europe. Currently there is a shortage of an intense collaboration between the European partners when it comes to air to air refueling (AAR). It is intended that the crews of the tankers during EART exchange knowledge with each other. During the EART training the difficulty of the exercise is slowly increased during the period of two

weeks. The scenarios start with several single-ship missions and will be extended to complete tankers cells supporting COMAO missions. During this last scenario, the EART will be mixed up with the exercise Frisian Flag which currently takes place at Leeuwarden Air Base. These exercises are beside the tanker crews also very educational for the fighter pilots which participate in Frisian Flag. Various aspects will be practiced during the EART. Some of these aspects are performing and standardizing rendezvous procedures, Tactical Air Refuelling and Cell procedures like Link16, EMCON 3 Bailout procedures and Search And Rescue (SAR), Combined planning processes, Implementation of Eindhoven Air Base as a forward operating tanker AAR cell and deliver support to Frisian Flag 2015 in all aspects of AAR. All these aspects of the exercise together are a major workload for the tanker crews. The tankers participating in the EART will fly one or two missions per day. The number of missions which will be flown is depending on the amount of Frisian Flag fighters which want to make use of the tanker.

Refueling of aircraft in the air is an essential link in the chain to deliver structural airpower anywhere in the world. These techniques ensure that airpower can be delivered more efficiently and is therefore indispensable in the modern military aviation. AAR is not only important for operations with combat aircraft, but is important for the entire line of military air operations. Despite this importance of AAR, the European air forces have in recent years been structurally dependent on the American tanker capabilities. Some examples are the actions in Kosovo in 1999 and the action over Libya in 2011. Today, the European air forces have collectively only 40 tankers at their disposal. This is just a small amount compared with the United States which has more than 500 tankers in use. The European air forces are clearly not well prepared when it comes to tanker capacity. The shortage of dedicated and specific training for the European tanker units is also a recognized problem in Europe. The EART is one of the first exercises of its kind to meet these training needs. In addition to practicing scenarios are during the training also the operational procedures of the international crews better coordinated. International cooperation is also promoted by certifying tanker crews by the EDA. The tankers can be used in a collective Poole which is better; the efficiency of the tank operations is highly improved by this.

AAR was seen by the board of the EDA as one of the eleven Pooling & Sharing priorities in November 2011. During a regular board meeting in March 2012, it was agreed by several ministers of the European countries that AAR joint operations should be developed in the future. The ministers agreed that the ridges AAR capacities in Europe should be developed with a high priority. The joint AAR capacity must be available in the future for all CSDP and NATO operations and all related operations around. In response to this need, the EDA has launched a global approach for increasing the AAR capacity in Europe. There will be a European tanker command in the future which is in terms of model the same as the EATC. The defense ministers of Belgium, France, Greece, Spain, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Norway have agreed that a joint tanker fleet will be established in the future. The initiative is led by the Netherlands and aims to lift the European AAR capability to a higher level. Together probably a fleet of strategic multi-role tanker and transport (MRTT) aircraft will be purchased in the future. The goal is to have this fleet operational in 2020. This MRTT fleet will probably be stationed at four locations in Europe of which Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands is one to of these locations. Which other airfields will be used is not yet clear, it will probably be in Spain, Poland and Norway.

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