Exercise Report : Joint Warrior 2014-1
Joint Warrior 2014-1
Helmut Richter reports back from a photo-trip to RAF Lossiemouth on 8 & 9 April 2014, during exercise Joint Warrior 2014-1
RAF Lossiemouth had been on my mind for while for a photo trip due to its famous photo opportunities and the interesting exercise activities, in particular the series of Joint Warrior exercises, taking place twice a year in Scotland in April and October.
In April 2013, the 100 year anniversary of ER 2/33 at Mont de Marsan had still won over Lossiemouth, but this year I fixed travel arrangement early for two days at Lossiemouth during the second week of Joint Warrior 14-1. Unfortunately, during the preparations I had to learn that two of the three resident Tornado squadrons, i.e. 12 Sqn and 617 Sqn, would disband just days before the start of Joint Warrior.
Nevertheless, I had the pleasure to spend two fantastic days at Lossiemouth with a lot of flying activity both by Joint Warrior participants and the remaining locals, 15 Sqn and 202 Sqn “D” flight. In terms of the weather, I was told I was lucky to hit the two days with the best weather during the exercise (April 8 and 9).
Joint Warrior claims to be the largest regular exercise held in Europe and combines sea, air and land/amphibious operations of all UK armed forces, i.e. Navy, Air Force and Army, as well as a range of NATO and other partner armed forces. Lossiemouth typically accommodates the maritime patrol element of the exercise as well as the enemy aircraft and missile simulation element provided by RN/RAF Hawk aircraft and the target towing and electronic threat simulation capabilities, typically provided by the civil-registered Falcon 20s of Cobham Ltd.
Missions were flown day and night, so that it was not a given that there would be daylight photo opportunities for all participating aircraft during the two days, in particular for the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA’s) with their multi-hour mission durations.
The Canadian Armed Forces had three CP-140 Auroras on base from different units and the USN operated two P-3C Orions from VP-10 as well as a single P-8A Poseidon from VP-5. All these aircraft did day missions during my visit, after the P-8A had apparently done night missions previously, and I was able to take shots from a variety of the many photo positions around the base during take-off, landing and taxiing.
More great photo opportunities were provided by two Norwegian P-3Cs from 333 Skv. On the second day, P-3C 3298 “Viking” performed a little show at the end of the last mission on 9 April with several low passes. Previously, while taxiing for take-off, a crew member appropriately topped with a Viking helmet had waved a Norwegian flag from the top of the cockpit.
From reports of fellow photographers it was uncertain if there would be an opportunity to get the single Atlantique 2, which had flow night missions before with take-offs in the dark. Eventually, after hours of start preparation on the first day, the ATL 2 made it into the air in the final light of the day with the shadows nearly horizontal. The French Navy also accounted for the only support aircraft of the two days with a welcome EMB-121AN of 28F.
The MPA with the longest way to the exercise was P-3K NZ4203 of 5Sqn RNZAF. This aircraft had become unserviceable the week before with a cracked windscreen and did not fly during my visit. However after a spare part delivered by RNZAF C-130 NZ7004 had been fitted, NZ4203 was towed to the flight line on the second day which at least gave an opportunity for the shot included in the image set.
There were in total six Hawks operating from Lossiemouth both from FRADU (Royal Navy) and 208 Sqn (RAF) which flew multiple missions per day. Two of the FRADU Hawks had a “Fly Navy” anniversary colour scheme on the fin, which had survived from the 2009 anniversary, although on one of the Hawks, the rudder had been replaced with a standard black one.
The Falcons of Cobham Ltd. also were very busy and flew missions with different underwing store configurations. One of the two images in the collection show a configuration with a towed target, presumably for ship gunnery training. The Falcon does a low pass to drop the target on the airfield before landing. The other image shows G-FRAW with four underwing stores, presumably representing some types of electronic warfare jammers and simulators.
Local units and visitors
As already mentioned, 12 Sqn and 617 Sqn had disbanded just days before my visit, so that 15 (R) Sqn was the single remaining local unit apart from the 202 Sqn detachment providing SAR services.
Some of the other squadron’s assets had apparently been moved to 15 Sqn, including the two aircraft with 12 Sqn and 617 Sqn disbandment colour schemes. Unfortunately, only ZA395 with the 12 Sqn scheme flew during the two days, rapidly reducing the remaining time on the airframe before flying to Leeming for RTP (Reduce To Produce) the week after for component recovery before recycling and disposal.
Flying from the 15 Sqn ramp, there were also other Tornadoes still wearing markings of other squadrons. Examples shown in the collection are ZA541-034 wearing 12 Sqn markings (only on the right side) and ZA562-051 wearing 9 Sqn markings.
In addition to 15 Sqn operations, there were several Tornados leaving Lossiemouth from the hangar area, either for Marham or for Leeming. One of them was ZG791/137, pictured while taxiing for take-off to Marham.
15 Sqn will remain at Lossiemouth to continue operating as Tornado OCU until retirement of the Tornado fleet. In addition, Lossiemouth will receive two squadrons of Typhoons, with 1 and 6 Sqn to be relocated from Leuchars. 6 Sqn Typhoons started to move to Lossiemouth in June 2014, completing the transfer of aircraft on June 20.
“D” flight of 202 Sqn operates the Seaking HAR.3 from Lossiemouth and there is a convenient photo position looking at the 202 Sqn operating area, from which ZE369-S was taken while scrambling to an SAR mission.
There were not many visitors during the two days. Two RAF Merlins did a refuelling stop, one of which is included in the photo section during departure in low light conditions.
Overall, I was truly satisfied with my first visit to Lossiemouth. While it is certainly not the most convenient place to get to from continental Europe, the excellent photo opportunities, all accessible without a stepladder, make Lossiemouth one of the most attractive destinations for the enthusiast, in particular during an exercise like Joint Warrior.
Report and photos by Helmut Richter ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 9 August 2014
09 Aug 2014 Captions & layout improved