Report by: Pierre-Yves Lecoeur
The Tactical Weapons Meet 2017 brought together aircraft from six European nations for two weeks of air combat exercises. The First Squadron of Belgian Air Force, which took the “Scottish Thistle” as its emblem in 1917. Within the framework of their centenary celebrations took the responsibility of the organization of this event held in Florennes AB in the south of Belgium. Among the visitors, there was the pair of F-4E Phantoms, from the 117 Combat Wing, Hellenic Air Force, which attracted most attention for obvious reasons, and it was great to see both airframes flying twice daily during the exercise. The Spanish and Italian Eurofighter Typhoon belonging respectively to the Ala 11 based at Morón and 4° Stormo from Grosseto. The Polish Air Force a trio of MiG-29 Fulcrums of the 23 BLT based at Miñsk Mazowiecki , and the Royal Air Force deployed a pair of Hawk T1 jets from 100 Squadron to act as aggressors during the exercise.
In addition to the celebration of the anniversary, the Tactical Weapon Meet was meant to enable the various participants in our alliance within the NATO to share various experiences that they were able to acquire during their participation in other NATO exercises, or in the course of actual operations carried out in recent years. Based in Florennes for almost two weeks, participants refined their close combat tactics during the first week, highlighting the striking differences in performance and agility between the different types of machines involved.
Mission scenarios involved operations in “enemy territories”, involving air support to troops on the ground in a hostile environment such as airborne threats from interceptors, and phases of pure electronic warfare.These missions obviously required a great deal of preparation in the design of the scenarios to make them as close as possible to the actual engagements, taking into account the needs of each participating nation.
The typical crew day began around 8:30 am with a presentation of the day’s scenario by the Tactical Weapon Meet intelligence cell. Then, the Mission Commander in charge of mission planning, with the goal to integrate the various aerial means at his disposal to fulfill the objectives of the mission. Then came the time for the briefing by the Mission Commander, for about one hour. Once the briefing was completed and the day mission defined, each crew had to take off at the assigned timing, usually between 1:30 pm and 2:15 pm, to complete the mission in accordance with the Mission Commander’s instructions. Each mission under the TWM lasted on average between 1:30 and 2 hours depending on the complexity of the mission. The areas of operation were mainly located in Belgium, in the TSA26, above and in the vicinity of Florennes airbase, but the TRA205 located in Germany was also used for some of the missions.
After the complete recovery of the mission began a complete debriefing to analyse all the aspects of the mission progress . A press and aviation photographer day was organized on June 15th. Successfully done so, the aim, besides the presentation of the planes participating to the exercise, was to bring specially decorated planes, and if possible squadrons which also had passed the centennial frontier, to the base as much as possible. Thus, most of the decorated aircraft in the Belgian Air Force had made the trip, but also 2 Mirage 2000-5F of the GC1/2 “Cigognes” of Luxeuil air base, including a superb decoration in memory of Captain Georges Guynemer, fallen on the battlefield in 1917 in Poelkapelle on our national territory, or the pass of the Typhoon 30 + 90 of the TaktLwG 71 “Richthofen” of the Luftwaffe. Not to forget the Royal Air Force’s Bae Hawk T.1, present for the exercise, and proudly wearing the colors for the 100th anniversary of the 100 Squadron.
Globalairpower would like to join all the congratulations emitted after the event by the vast majority of the participants.