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Brilliant Arrow 2017; Wittmund, September 21, 2017

Certification for the NATO Response Force; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Brilliant Arrow 2017 exercise (BRAW17) is the biggest exercise of the German Luftwaffe this year. The purpose is to certify units for the NATO Response Force (NRF) by 2018 for the Joint Force Air Component command which is located in Kalkar. The exercise lasted from September 11 until 22, 2017 in Germany.

The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a highly accurate and technologically advanced multinational army which consists of army forces, air force units, maritime units and special operations forces. The Alliance can quickly deploy the various units if necessary wherever in the world. The NRF is usually ready to intervene immediately anywhere in the world if NATO's leadership is demanding this. Mobility is therefore an important tool for the NRF, as units often have to move quickly. Also, the different units must be able to work together, while being separately prepared and briefed for their missions. This can only be achieved if all units of the NRF operate in the same way and know what each other’s strong and weak aspects are. In addition to the operational role, the NRF offers an opportunity to demonstrate operational willingness and employability, allowing the army to act as a development environment for an Alliance transformation. The NRF can be used in the implementation of the NATO Connected Forces Initiative (CFI), which is a means for more cooperation in education and training, increased training and better use of the various available technologies of partner countries. The Brilliant Arrow exercise (BRAW2017) was set up to train the NATO Air Force. The air forces which are part of the NRF cannot train routinely together to increase their experience and skills in a combined air force. The BRAW2017 exercise will prepare the participating units and the HQ AIRCOM to stand up to be ready for NATO's defense and its other interests from 2018.

The Brilliant Arrow exercise was flown from several German airfields. The aircraft participating in BRAW2017 were spread throughout West and North Germany. The most important airfield where most aircraft were located was Wittmund in Lower Saxony. The German Luftwaffe participated from Wittmund with four EF2000 Eurofighters, classified by the Taktischen Luftwaffengeschader 71 "Richthofen" (TLG-71). The Polish Air Force flew from here with five F-16s of the 31.elt from Poznań-

Krzesiny. The Greek Air Force came from Souda Bay AB where the 340 Mira is based. This unit took part from Wittmund with four F-16s. Discovery Air Defense participated with two A-4 Skyhawks which served as aggressors in the form of Red Air. Next to the aggressor roll also the roll ass target for air to air shooting with the board gun was assigned to these aircraft. From Laage the Turks took part in BRAW2017 with two F-16s. The German Luftwaffe flew from Nörvenich with four Eurofighters of TLG-31 "Boeckle". In addition to the Boeckle Eurofighters, there were also four Eurofighters of TLG-74 from Neuburg for this exercise at Nörvenich. Lufttransportgeschwader 63 (LTG-63) from Hohn took part with two C-160 Transalls to support the exercise. From Cologne-Bonn, the Luftwaffe would also support the exercise with an Airbus A310MRTT to refuel airplanes. The whole exercise would be coordinated in the air by a NATO E-3 Sentry from the German airbase Geilenkirchen. The command of the exercise was conducted from Kalkar by the Joint Force Air Component Command, JFAC HQ DEU.

In addition to the flying participants, there will also be several land units which are participating in BRAW2017. This participation will be provided by the 26th Surface-to-Air Missile Group in Husum and the 3rd Tactical Air Command and Control Group in Holzdorf/Schönwalde. These air defense batteries will make the exercise realistic because they constitute a serious threat to the participating aircraft. In addition, a Control and Reporting Center (CRC) will be active next to these land units to track the hits and actions of all participants. The exercise started unfortunately a few days late due to the bad weather during the arrival date on Monday. The foreign participants of BRAW2017 only arrived on Tuesday during the first week of the exercise. In total, 22 fighter planes would participate in this exercise. In total, the fighter planes will take-off twice a day from Laage, Nörvenich and Wittmund for their missions during BRAW2017. Together with the supporting planes, about 30 aircraft are simultaneously active in German airspace. In the afternoon, a few less aircraft will be active compared to the morning missions. To minimize noise for neighboring villages around the airfields, most missions will take place at high altitude and above the North Sea. The exercises which are planned above sea will only take place above land if the waves at sea are too high. This safety limit is defined in case a pilot has to leave its aircraft in an emergency. The pilots must be able to crawl safely in their dingy at sea.

The BRAW2017 missions are scheduled for the Joint Force Air Component Command in Kalkar, where the missions and roles are sent to the participating airfields and the present units. The commands of the Joint Force Air Component Command in Kalkar will be interpreted and deployed in actions for the involved pilots. Several modern war scenarios are broadcasted by the JFAC Kalkar. The missions are prepared at the airfields by the flying units, therefore everybody knows what its job is in the overall scenario. Different missions which are flown by participants may be offensive tasks (Offensive AIR) where attacks are performed in enemy territory. The Defensive AIR can also contain actions which are defend on own territory. These defensive missions can be attacks on enemy troops on the ground, as well as air defense scenarios where enemy planes are attacked or driven away. After the missions the pilots are again debriefed at their own airfields. Using encrypted video calls, the mission results are discussed with the JFAC command in Kalkar. After a period of intensive training, the German Luftwaffe is supposed to be ready to lead the NRF in 2018. The NRF under German leadership will eventually start from the beginning of 2018 and lasts at least for one year. The German participation and preparedness for the NRF depends entirely on the Eurofighter commitment.

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