Cobra Warrior 2019

Between the 1st and 20th September 2019 Exercise Cobra Warrior was held at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. A multi-national tactical training event, Warrior saw affiliated forces aiming to develop the tactical skills of their aircrew and supporting elements with a Composite Air Operation. The three British services took part in the exercise while four other countries in total participated being, Germany, Italy, the United States and for the first time ever Israel took part in an exercise on UK soil.

The exercise was described as being “a large-force employment live exercise (LIVEX), which saw a large number of aircraft – more than 50 aircraft – involved in Composite Air Operation (COMAO) missions. These aircraft are performing different roles within the overall scenario of the exercise to achieve a number of tactical objectives.” What the exercise did was to develop the skills of the tactical leaders and front-line crews, which included pilots and aircrew, but also bringing support personnel such as Intelligence commanders, command and control specialists who were involved in the whole pyramid of the exercise. Cobra Warrior is the RAF’s capstone tactical training exercise, designed to conclude the training of the Qualified Weapons Instructor (QWI), Qualified Multi-engine Tactics Instructor (QMETI), QWI Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (QWI-ISR), and Qualified Space Instructor (QSI) students.

Missions were only flown in the mornings on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for a total of nine sorties over the three-week exercise. They had “side” missions carried out in the afternoon. These non-Cobra Warrior missions were designed to allow crews to practice some aspects of air combat in order to improve their skills, particularly among the younger pilots.

RAF Waddington served as the main base of the exercise with all the foreign contingent based there, a look at the participants and bases used.

Without any doubt, the British participation was the largest, RAF Waddington’s ISTAR fleet comprised of the RC-135W AirSeeker, Sentinel R.1, and the Shadow R.1 aircraft while the E-3D Sentry AEW.1 provided airborne and early warning control. Typhoons FGR.4’s took part from their home bases, RAF Coningsby and RAF Lossiemouth while the new boy on the block the F-35B took part from RAF Marham. Air to Air refuelling missions were flown by the Voyager KC.2/KC.3 tankers from RAF Brize Norton. Furthermore bases also supported the exercise, namely, RAF Leeming, RAF Odiham, RAF Boulmer, and RAF Spadeadam’s Electronic Warfare Tactics Range.

United States Air Force units took part from three US bases in the United Kingdom, F-15 Eagles flew directly from their home, RAF Lakenheath while KC-135 stratotankers from nearby RAF Mildenhall and Global strike command bombers in the form of a single B-52H Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit bombers from RAF Fairford where they were forward deployed.

The highlight of the exercise was for many enthusiasts the Israeli Air Force participation. Seven F-15C/Ds “Baz” belonging to 106 Squadron from Tel Nof airbase took part in the exercise. Four F-15C’s and three F-15D’s were present for the whole duration while they were accompanied by a single KC-707 Re’em tanker aircraft from 120 Squadron at Nevatim airbase during the last week of Cobra Warrior. Several C-130J-30s from 103 Squadron supported the detachment.

The German Air Force has the largest foreign contingent in the exercise, with ten Eurofighters from Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 73 (TLG73) “Steinhoff” based at Laage airbase were all deployed to RAF Waddington. A single Airbus A-310MRTT that was deployed at RAF Brize Norton for the exercise provided air to air refuelling through the exercise. The German contingent had a total of around 160 personnel in the UK.

Four Eurofighter from the Italian Air Force along with around 50 crew was led by 4° Stormo (Grosseto airbase), aircraft and personnel involved came from all units that fly the Typhoon: 4° and 36° Stormo (Gioia del Colle airbase) and 37° Stormo (Trapani airbase).

Horizon was present for a couple of days at RAF Waddington to witness some of the waves for the training sorties.