Stedman steps over the channel for a flavour of Florennes's regular
A visit to
the Belgian Air Base at Florennes on Thursday 26 September found most
of the visiting participants for the NATO Tactical Leadership Programme
had arrived and flying the first mission of the course. As is usual for
that part of Europe, mist and low cloud was to be the order of the day,
although this did clear slightly when the TLP flights began to return.
TLP 2002/5 - the last of the year to be held at Florennes - was scheduled
to start on the Monday and run for the normal four-week period. TLP 2002/5
consisted of the usual mix of fast jets, along with visiting and support
aircraft. Florennes is also home to the BAF's 2 Wing, whose F-16s can
usually be expected to be active during the TLP.
makes its debut
RAF's four remaining fighter squadrons are being equipped with the
latest, fastest and most lethal short-range anti-aircraft missile
in the world. A new UK-designed weapon, named ASRAAM (Advanced Short
Range Air-to-Air Missile), chases down targets using a highly advanced
homing head. It can 'see' an image of the hostile aircraft it is
about to destroy.
It can go further and faster than the weapon it replaces - the Sidewinder
- and its advanced homing head and in-flight agility mean it will
be almost impossible to evade.
the unveiling ceremony at RAF Leuchars the day before the base's
airshow, Air Cdre Andy Sweetman, the MOD's Director of Equipment
Capability who has been responsible for bringing ASRAAM into service,
said: "I believe this is the best air-to-air missile in the
world. It will give the RAF a combat-winning edge and our aircrews
the confidence that they can prevail against any potential adversary."
RAF has successfully completed a demanding series of trials with
ASRAAM and the weapon is ready to be deployed on operations. It
is a fast, highly agile, fire-and-forget missile for short-range
air-to-air combat. It is highly capable even when faced with sophisticated
infrared countermeasures. It will be carried by Tornado F3, replacing
Sidewinder AIM-9L, and will also be fitted to the Typhoon when the
aircraft becomes available for operational deployment later this
at RAF Leuchars and RAF Leeming have been training with ASRAAM since
January to familiarise themselves with the missile's capabilities
and performance ahead of deployment to operational theatres. The
training demonstrated the tactical advantages provided by ASRAAM
in simulated combat engagements against other air forces in the
Air Combat Manoeuvring Range in the North Sea. Training is now complete
and the missile is ready to go into full operational service.
is a revolutionary design offering the fastest reaction time of
any short-range missile from button press to end game performance.
The ability to launch at high off-boresight angles plus the missile's
agility, short-time-to-target and effectiveness to defeat all known
future threats in the severest cloud clutter and countermeasures
environments provides the pilot with significant tactical advantages
during aerial engagements.
has also been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to
arm its F/A-18 Hornet combat aircraft and is undergoing service
clearance and acceptance by the RAAF. The weapon is scheduled to
enter service with the RAAF in 2003.
is now in full-scale production at MBDA's Lostock factory in North-West
England. There will be a continued incremental development programme
with further software upgrades to optimise the missile's operational
capability. The total procurement cost is £857M; £9M
less than the original cost when the project was approved.
with the usual TLP callsign 'Iglu', all participants (except the Spanish
EF-18s) flew on the Thursday, some having only arrived earlier that morning.
Unfortunately neither the rumoured USN EA-6Bs (unsurprisingly) or the
cancelled eight strong detachment of Canadian CF-18s were present. No
Tornado GR4s were noted, although this was offset by the unexpected presence
of two Harrier GR7s.
in the morning, before turning around and flying their first TLP sortie
later that day were two Leeming wing Tornado F3s. Both jets were observed
to be flying with the newly issued ASRAAM (see right) short range
infra-red missile in place of the older and more familiar AIM-9. Assuming
that this weapon does - now finally - meet the expectations of the RAF
then the much maligned F3 fleet has, at last, a capability to shout about.
That is, until the AIM-9X enters US service in the near future!
Participants at Florennes for the Tactical Leadership Programme 2002/5
on Thursday 26 September -
FS/52 FW F-16CJs 91-0403 & 91-0420;
4 Sqn Harrier
GR7s ZD328/09 & ZG479/69;
Wing Tornado F3s ZE204/UJ (11 Sqn) & ZE292/YY (25 Sqn);
FW F-15Es 97-0221, 98-0132 & 98-0134 ('0134 arrived that day);
2000-5s 66/2-FD (EC02.002) & 70/2-ED (EC02.001);
2000Ds 615/3-JA & 619/3-JE (both EC02.003);
Etendards 28 & 31 (both 17F);
Phantom F-4Fs 37+03, 37+98 & 37+26 ('26 did not fly on the day);
AMXs MM7170/2-23 & MM7171/2-15;
Spanish Air Force (did not fly on the day).
to Tom McGhee for the arrangements and both Tom and Andrew Horrex for