Euro­pean Air Re­fu­elling Train­ing (EART) 2018

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Frisian Flag 2018 - Text and pho­tos: Joris van Boven and Alex van Noye

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!

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