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The importance of the EART; Eindhoven, April 12, 2018

Frisian Flag and the EART 2018, part 2; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

When the European Air Transport Command was established in 2004, it could not be foreseen that a cooperation between countries of such a large size as now would arise. Also when it comes to air to air refueling, the European countries have joined forces by intensively training together during the annual EART.

Lieutenant Colonel Chris van Dijk is the current commander of the 334 Squadron, who has the execution of the EART (European Air Refueling Training) of 2018 under his command. He explains that this year Eindhoven Air Base is again the airfield which is used for the EART exercise which is held in parallel to the exercise Frisian Flag at Leeuwarden Air Base. The organization which is responsible for the successful execution of the exercise is the EATC (European Air Transport Command) which is, like the 334 Squadron, based at Eindhoven. Eindhoven Air Base is acting in the role of the Host Nation Support for the EART and will facilitate the entire exercise by all means. The entire EART exercise is dedicated to tanker operations and international cooperation between NATO partners. The course of the exercise went completely different in the first week than previously planned. Of the participating tankers, the French and American KC-135 have already left home. The deployment of these tankers was needed during several operational missions. Only the Dutch KDC-10 and the German Airbus A310MRTT fly daily missions to support the exercise Frisian Flag and the EART. Both tankers from France and the United States were withdrawn, because there is currently unrest in the Middle East and especially in Syria. These facts quickly indicate how important and scarce the tankers are at present in Europe. A good future investment in a solid tanker fleet will make the European Union independent from other countries and possible partners.

Major General Pascal Chiffoleau explains that the slogan of the exercise is "integrated, innovative and effective" for him what the exercise stands for. The EART is the most important training in Europe when it comes to practicing air to air refueling in a European joint venture. Standardization and harmony between the participants remains the main focus of the training. This is partly realized at informal meetings during barbeques and beer, but for the largest amount by intensive cooperation and

training. In the near future, the Airbus A400M will also be equipped in the tanker role to supplement the operational fleet of tankers. The Airbus A330MRTT will also make its appearance at the EATC. The EATC annually organizes various exercises, with a particular focus on the logistics branch of the European air forces. The EART is the largest tanker exercise which is organized by the EATC. The general indicates that refueling in the air is not just flying around with the boom lowered during this flight. He indicated that the use of tankers and refueling of all types of fighter aircraft is of great strategic importance for the European air forces. The use of tankers is crucial to be able to overcome a crisis situation at long distances. The tankers ensure that the aircraft are not only supplied with fuel, but sometimes also ensure that airplanes are safely taken back home after their mission.

The Italian Colonel Andrea Massucci is the operational director (OPS Director) of the EART exercise. Colonel Massucci indicates that the EATC is not only about transport as the name says, but also about the tanker operations and MEDEVAC flights which are taking place. Massucci says that the name "command" in the abbreviation EATC indicates exactly what they do, namely to command all European transport units which are members of the EATC. The EATC now has more than 160 transport aircraft at its disposal. The variation in this fleet is large from small tactical transport aircraft to long-distance strategic transport aircraft. There are seven countries which have their aircraft available to the EATC. These countries, are; Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain. The aircraft are based on their own airfields in the country of origin and are controlled and supported by the EATC from Eindhoven. Of the seven countries, there are five nations that have tankers which are also under the command of the EATC. France has three C-160 Transalls which can be used as a tanker. Spain also has a total of five transport aircraft that can refuel in the form of five KC-130 Hercules aircraft. To continue, the Netherlands has the two KDC-10 aircraft, and Germany has two Airbus A310MRTT aircraft which can operate as tankers. Finally, Italy has four KC-767 and three C-130J Hercules tankers which are under the command of the EATC. In total, these tankers account for about 60% of the European tanker capacity. In the future, France will join the MMT program in this group as well.

The colonel indicates that the origin of this exercise was initiated by the EDA (European Defense Agency). The EDA has developed the training and has led the investigations that will lead to the formation of the future tanker fleet. Dion Polman is from the EDA and told that the EART originated here in the crew room of the 334 Squadron. A number of crew members of the tankers came together here to combine the exercise Frisian Flag with a dedicated training on refueling in the air. The EDA was involved in the idea to give this idea a kickstart, and eventually the EDA was worked out the whole concept and the current exercise we know as the EART. The EDA is an organization created by the European Union, because the union as a whole must be defended in a constantly changing geopolitical environment. The European Defense Agency has been set up to act as a hub for cooperation between European member states. The EDA is an organization in which all governments are represented and serves the interests of all countries. The goal of the organization is to improve defense capabilities, stimulate research and new technologies. The organization must also act as a military interface between the various European policy makers. With its recommendations, the EDA also provides the right financing for a good European defense. The EDA ensures that the European industry and politics are connected to each other in the interests of European defense.

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