European Air Refuelling Training (EART) 2018
When the European Air Transport Command was established in 2004, it could hardly be foreseen that such cooperation between countries would arise. Still, when it comes to airto-air refueling, European countries have joined forces by training together during the annual EART. Owing to the changing conditions in the world, it is necessary to have a well- functioning and modern tanker fleet. The ‘hotspots’ in the world are increasingly diverse and further away compared with the recent past, making a strategic tanker fleet an important factor for mission success. During the EART, all aspects of refueling are trained for and lessons which have been learned during this exercise, have made politicians in Europe agree to join forces when it comes to air-to-air refueling with strategic tankers. With the help of the European Defence Agency, a study was started which finally led to the purchase of a joint European Airbus A330MRTT tanker fleet in the near future.
The Importance of EART
Lieutenant- Colonel Chris van Dijk is current commander of No. 334 Squadron, who executed the EART (European Air Refueling Training) in 2018, who informed that this years’ EART exercise, which was held in parallel to the exercise Frisian Flag at Leeuwarden Air Base, was again scheduled at Eindhoven Air Base. The entire EART exercise was dedicated to tanker operations and international cooperation between NATO partners. Of the participating
tankers, the French and American KC-135 had already left for home base and only the Dutch KDC-10 and the German Airbus A310MRTT flew daily missions to support the exercise Frisian Flag and EART. Both tankers from France and the United States were withdrawn, because there was unrest in the Middle East and especially in Syria.
Goals and Achievements of EART
It is well known that the European units have a shortage of tankers and EART was created to optimally use the existing fleet of tankers. In exercises such as Frisian Flag, the emphasis is often on the fighter crews and not on that of the tankers but during EART, it was the other way around where the crew of the tankers were also extensively trained alongside the fighter crew. One of the main goals of the EART was to receive different ‘receivers’ and not just their own fighter types.
On Tanker Mission with the KDC-10 and A310 during EART2018
During exercise Frisian Flag, tankers were flown in two designated areas. Just above the coast of Texel, above the North Sea, was the Shell Track located and just off the coast of Denmark, was located the Esso Track. During the training, the crews were briefed daily on the operators that they would receive. Crews were also instructed on how they would operate and with how many tankers they would fly into the cell. During this EART, it was the second time that the tankers were connected to the Link 16 system on which movements could be analysed in detail later. With the remaining two tankers on 12 April, the Dutch KDC-10 refueled eight Dutch F-16s; the German A310 refueled four German Eurofighters and three French Rafales. All refueling missions were flown in the Shell track.
Future Tanker Fleet
In 2016, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were the first countries to sign the intention statement (Memoria of understanding, MOU) to purchase these aircraft. These countries later also signed for the purchase of two aircraft with an option for another six aircraft. In 2017, Germany and Norway also signed for this project. With these two partners on board, the number of aircraft to be purchased was already at seven. On 14 February 2018, Belgium also contracted for and the number of aircraft has increased to eight.
Dutch Air Force McDonnel Douglas KDC-10
French Air Force Rafale
Dramatic shot of the F-16s!