Exercise Report : ELITE 2008
Each year the German Air Force runs the ELITE electronic warfare live training exercise. Ramon van Opdorp reports back from his spotters trip to Lechfeld air base in Germany during the exercise, which ran from July 3th until July 18th, 2008.
ELITE 2008 - Electronic Warfare Live Training Exercise
After last year's horrible visit to the South of Germany for the annual Electronic Warfare Live Training Exercise (ELITE) with terrible weather and to find the morning mission having been cancelled, I wanted to try my luck again this year and visited the Lechfeld air base near Munich. The media/spotters days at Lechfeld are well-known for the excellent organisation and flexibility of the Public Relations office. Which became apparent last year when the morning mission had been cancelled, everything was done to enable all the photographers to visit the flight lines with all the participating aircraft. This year, the weather was very good. With a clear blue sky, the moderate temperature and a light breeze over the airfield presented the perfect condition for photographing fast jets. The position to photograph the aircraft is always excellent, due the fact you are positioned next to the taxiway at around 25 meters from the runway. This enables the use of the sharp 70-200mm F2.8 lens, without the need to add a converter or use a bigger lens.
Again a great variety of participants was present for the ELITE exercise. Besides the Luftwaffe's Tornado ECR and Tornado IDS aircraft flown by JBG 32 and AG 51 respectively, there were five foreign countries operating from various aircraft from Lechfeld: Four Hellenic Air Force F-16s, Turkish Air Force F-16s and F-4 Phantoms, Italian Tornados, Spanish Hornets and Polish Fitters.
The Tornado jets of the Italian 155° Gruppo can always be distinguished by the aggressive looking shark mouths underneath the cockpit. Also present this year was the specially painted Tornado MM7027, the beautiful silver paint scheme commemorated the 50° Stormo "G. Graffer" 70 years of its constitution and the 65 year anniversary of the 155° Gruppo in 2006 (see also our report: 50° Stormo / 155° Gruppo Anniversary Black Panther Tornado).
During the spotters day a special visitor was present, a German Navy Br.1150 Atlantic of the “Graf Zeppelin” MFG 3 from Nordholz. The aircraft flew in the SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) role during the ELITE mission of the day. The SIGINT versions are the only Atlantics still flown by the Marineflieger, as all regular maritime patrol versions have been replaced by the former Royal Netherlands Navy P-3C Orions.
Always nice to see and photograph are the jets that deploy brake chutes to slow down on landing, as was the case with the Turkish F-16s and F-4E Phantoms as well as the Polish Su-22 Fitters. One single-seat Su-22 came in to land again quickly after take-off. The fire department positioned itself besides the runway. But it must have a minor problem to return, as the pilot still gave the thumbs up while taxiing past us. Most of the pilots are always friendly and give you a thumbs up or wave to you. The Turkish F-4E Phantom crews however had a special display in mind, as both Phantoms turned their great looking aircraft straight towards us with flashing landing lights. This unique action lead to some rare and excellent photograph opportunities, which was much appreciated by the photographers.
All reviewed, it was a great day with beautiful aircraft, personal favourites being the Phantoms and Fitters. Great weather and excellent organisation.
Special thanks to the PRO and PR office of the JBG 32 at Lechfeld.
More information about the exercise itself can be found in our ELITE 2005 report
Report and photos by Ramon van Opdorp ( view portfolio )