Exercise Cobra Warrior, a Royal Air Force tactical training exercise, is now fully underway in the skies over Scotland and Northern England.
Cobra Warrior, running from 3-23 September, is a biannual air exercise involving aircraft from Europe and America in which participating air forces are trained at high intensity to defend their airspace from a range of threats. The Royal Air Force say here that this year’s iteration includes UK, Italian, German, United States of America and NATO involvement, “which allows development of interoperability between the NATO members and fine tuning of tactics, techniques and procedures.”
The type of flying the jets are undertaking is what is called “collective training”, so they’re operating in large groups in the airspace over Scotland and Northern England and working together with one side pretending to be the enemy whilst the other tries to take them down. The exercise involves large numbers of aircraft supported by many ground elements such as radar sites as well, in what the Royal Air Force call “a realistic threat environment with lots of red air and red ground threats.”
Hosted in England, flown in Scotland
RAF Waddington in England is hosting the Italian detachment of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters and the German Tornado bombers. The exercise also involves United States Air Force F-16, F-15 and F-35 fighter jets in addition to HH-60Gs search and rescue helicopters. Also present are NATO E-3A Sentry and Italian G550 airborne early warning aircraft tasked to provide command and control along with UK and Italian refuelling aircraft. It’s a truly international affair.
Many will have witnessed the Italian aircraft flying over Scotland in large circles between Glasgow and Inverness; the purpose of this is to coordinate the exercise.
The RAF add that the exercise is routinely undertaken twice a year, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, this month’s event is the first in several years and will pave the way for larger exercises in future. Major Setini, Italian Eurofighter Detachment Lead, was quoted as saying “This is one of the best exercises, not just in Europe, but in the world. It’s an opportunity to integrate with partner nations just to be ready, and so we know each other in the best way possible. It’s a very challenging exercise, and we are maximising the potential of our jets.”
European teamwork makes the dream work
According to a news release from the Royal Air Force, the German detachment of Tornado jets, which notably bring “Suppression of Enemy Air Defence” capability to the exercise, is led by Detachment Commander Lieutenant Colonel Köllner, who was quoted as saying, “This is a very important exercise for our crews, we want to prepare with our allies and be able to stand together with the same procedures and thinking. The exercise is very realistic for us, planning together, working together, flying together. It also gives our people a focus, they know what they’re working for, and we want to be ready for any situation that may come up.”
Scottish airspace makes “the most important exercise the RAF run” possible
Wing Commander Abbott, Officer Commanding 92 Squadron, was keen to emphasise the importance of this exercise. Abbott said “Exercise Cobra Warrior is the most important exercise that the RAF runs here in the UK and provides us with the opportunity to work with key NATO allies in a simulated contested and degraded operational environment that synchronises multi-domain effects. It is only by doing this that our aviators are able to learn and maintain the highly complex skills that are required to conduct such operations now and in the future as part of a coalition.”
The importance of the terrain in northern England, and more so in Scotland, has given European air forces a means to keep their skills current. Something especially important given the resurgent threat from Russia.