Any detailed information about Cobra Warrior was very difficult, if not nigh impossible to obtain from either the RAF or the Luftwaffe. Neither made any information available to the press, for some reason wanting to keep it 'under wraps'. So based upon information obtainable from various sources on the internet, here is what we were able to glean. Aside the Luftwaffe assets at RAF Coningsby, we also know that 29(R) Squadron, the Typhoon OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) at Coningsby was involved, along with RAF Tornados, A330 Voyagers, E-3 Sentrys, C-130 Hercules, BAe Hawks and Chinook helicopters. We also monitored Army Air Corps AH-64D Apaches and Cobham Aviation Services Falcon 20s operating during the exercise. On one occasion we believe a KC-135R Stratotanker from the U.S Air Forces 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall provided aerial refuelling.
Areas used for the exercise included RAF Spadeadam, located in Cumbria, and the associated D510 and D510A Complexes. Spadeadam is the only Electronic Warfare Threat Training Facility (EWTTF) in Europe where aircrews can practice manoeuvres and tactics against a variety of threats and targets. The largest RAF station by land area, Spadeadam has over 9600 acres available. We also know that aircraft used the D323, 412 and 513 Complexes around North-East England and Southern Scotland during Cobra Warrior, together with Air-to-Air Refuelling Areas 5 & 7 (AARA-5, AARA-7) over the North Sea.
This Typhoon carries a Rangeless Airborne Instrumentation Debriefing System (RAIDS) on the outer starboard pylon
The RAIDS pod gathers data, which is stored for later review. It can also be monitored on a range's Control and Computation Subsystem, allowing ground controllers to see the simulated battle unfold as it happens and monitor successful kills, which can then be reviewed later as part of the pilot's debrief
September 2018 saw a three-week deployment of German Air Force Panavia Tornados and Eurofighter EF2000s at RAF Coningsby for exercise Cobra Warrior. The Tornados came from Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 51 (Tactical Air Force Wing - TLG.51) based at Schleswig-Jagel and the EF2000s from TLG.73 at Rostock-Laage air base. The initial waves of aircraft began to arrive at Coningsby on Friday 31st August, in preparation for the exercise commencement the following week - seven Tornados and eight EF2000s; support aircraft flying into nearby RAF Waddington over the previous two days in the shape of an Airbus A400M and an Airbus A.310-MRTT. Formerly known as the Royal Air Force's (RAF) Combined Qualified Weapons Instructor (CQWI) course, Cobra Warrior focuses on providing the combined assessment phase for the RAF’s Weapons Instructors. As the RAF's largest collective training exercise, it recognises that it can offer so much more than just QWI training, with every force element having a part to play. Jetwash Aviation Photos was there to give you the low-down on the Luftwaffe deployment.
We would like to thank Major Christian Schneider (Pressestabsoffizier - Bundeshwehr) for his help in completing this article
A Marham Wing Tornado FGR.4 is seen taking on fuel over the North Sea
Now in the twilight of its career in the Royal Air Force, Panavia Tornado GR.4s from the Marham Wing
took part in what will be their last such exercise, as the aircraft are slated for withdrawal in early 2019
Air-to-Air refuelling during the exercise was provided by Airbus A330-MRTT Voyagers from the RAF's 10 & 101 Squadrons
One such aircraft (callsign Madras 31) is seen here recovering at its home base of RAF Brize Norton
Just one two-seat Eurofighter deployed with TLG.73
The aircraft is seen about to depart Coningsby for an afternoon mission
Operating out of Durham-Tees Valley Airport, Cobham Aviation Services Dassault Falcon 20s were involved in Cobra Warrior, presumably providing Electronc Warfare and simulating armed adversarys
With Cobra Warrior due to end on 21st September, Luftwaffe Inspector General, Lieutenant-General Ingo Gerhartz, and RAF Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sir Stephen Hillier, signed a joint agreement in London on 18th September - the purpose of which is unifying existing and future projects between the two air forces based around the European Air Group's (EAG) Eurofighter Typhoon Interoperability Programme (ETIP). Collaboration between the RAF and Luftwaffe will contribute to the strengthening of NATO, the agreement putting into practice the basis of four ‘pillars’.
The first pillar is training, both air forces combining their training opportunities and sharing knowledge, experience and tactics. Since August 2018, a German pilot has been stationed at RAF Coningsby, supporting the RAF in their daily operations and gaining valuable experience. It is planned that two more German pilots will TDY (Temporarily Deploy) to Coningsby, completing their so-called B-course there. The course lasts six months and enables young pilots to fly the Eurofighter, after which they will remain with the RAF for a further three years. In return, two British pilots will TDY with their German counterparts. The second pillar involves twinning between associations; the two training centres at Laage and RAF Coningsby becoming partners,
Face-to-face at 20,000 feet with a TLG.51 Tornado!
A TLG.73 single-seat Eurofighter taxies out for a mission during Cobra Warrior
The Luftwaffe has 140 Eurofighters on order, most of which have now been delivered. Mainly used for air defence, manning Quick Reaction Alerts (QRAs), they are currently armed with the IRIS-T and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. Much has been made of rumours that the Luftwaffe could only field four EF2000s for combat, but this was allegedly due to defensive aid problems and does not appear to have hindered them in their involvement in Cobra Warrior.
Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 51 'Immelmann' is the only air force unit providing manned airborne reconnaissance and unmanned imaging and signal-gathering capabilities for the Luftwaffe. Originally a pure reconnaissance wing, TLG.51 took over the role of naval aerial warfare in January 2005 when the Germany Navy's Marinefliegergeschwader 2 was disbanded. In April 2013, the Wing also took over the responsibility of the Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) from the disbanded Jagdbombergeschwader 32 at Lechfeld. Flying a mix of Tornado IDS (Interdictor Strike) and ECR (Electronic Combat Reconnaissance) Tornados out of Schleswig-Jagel air base, the Tornado ECR can carry most of the same weaponry as the IDS version, but is typically armed instead with the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed
Operating out of Köln-Bonn, the Airbus A.310-MRTTs of the Flugbereitschaft des Bundesministeriums der Verteidigung (FBS BMVg) provided air refuelling to the Luftwaffe aircraft during the exercise
The German Air Force (GAF - Luftwaffe) also conducted their Weapons Instructor Course in conjunction with Cobra Warrior, bringing a total of eight Tornado and eight Eurofighter aircraft, together with a number of trainee Weapons Instructors to Coningsby for the 3-week exercise. Seen landing back at RAF Coningsby after a morning mission, this Luftwaffe Eurofighter above, carries special tail markings depicting the German fighter ace Johannes 'Macky' Steinhoff. German Fighter Controllers and military intelligence personnel also participated in Cobra Warrior, allowing them to experience providing Command & Control (C2) structures within a multi-national coalition force.
Combined Air Operations
the collaboration between the two countries aiming to promote joint projects and innovation from the bottom up - improving daily serviceability of the Eurofighter. The third pillar will see the RAF and Luftwaffe co-operate more closely on technical logistics, especially around joint exercises and personnel exchanges. The fourth and final pillar revolves around development of the Eurofighter. With the aircraft constantly being updated, deployment scenarios have changed over the years, with technology increasingly more complex. The weapons systems will therefore always need to be improved so as to be as effective as possible - more advanced means of communication, faster data transmission and new radar. With the advancements and innovations, both air forces need to share and co-ordinate their thoughts and ideas from the beginning, providing successful co-operation and maximum interoperability.
Located at the former East German air base at Laage, Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 73'sprimary role is to train pilots for the Luftwaffe's Eurofighter. In 2017, it was selected as the home for the Luftwaffe's Fighter Weapons School. As mentioned previously, the Luftwaffe's Weapons Instructor Course (WIC) is regularly undertaken as part of a Cobra Warrior exercise; as it did in 2016 and also earlier in 2017. Undergraduate pilots from TLG.73 operate as part of a COMAO.
This TLG.51 Tornado ECR, callsign 'Harpoon 23', formates alongside the tanker aircraft over the North Sea
Operating out of nearby RAF Waddington, Boeing E-3D Sentrys from 8 Squadron provided Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) during the exercise
With the lack of information forthcoming from the Royal Air Force, it was very difficult to establish exactly which squadrons from RAF Coningsby participated in Cobra Warrior. It very much appeared that 29(R) Squadron took part, as a number were seen flying at the same time as the German Tornados and Eurofighters. Although the RAF Typhoons carry no squadron markings nowadays, presumably the aircraft above, operating as 'Album 62', was a 29(R) Squadron aircraft as it was seen operating from the squadron's ramp
Operating in large multi-national aircraft packages with a variety of types involved, it allows the instructors to train, monitor, evaluate and debrief the course members using Flight Profile Recorders (FPRs) mounted under the wing of each Eurofighter.
RAF Leeming Hawk T.1s from 100 Squadron also took part in the exercise, presumably operating as 'Red-Air' aggressor forces
Aside the Red Arrows, 100 Sqn is the last unit to operate the Hawk T.1 in RAF service
Another shot of #30-73 carrying an image of Johannes 'Macky' Steinhoff on the tailfin
The aircraft carries an IRIS-T air-to-air missile on each of the outer-wing pylons and a LITENING III targeting pod on the centreline pylon
'Cobra Warrior 2018'
ACM Sir Stephen Hillier and Lt-Gen. Ingo Gerhartz signing the agreement in London 18th September 2018 (Crown Copyright / Owen Cooban)
One of TLG.73's Eurofighters is captured taxying out for a mission on 10th September
'Harpoon 24' crosses the piano keys of Runway 25 just prior to touching down after a mission on 10th September
Captured as the aircraft flare's for landing, this Eurofighter has an IRIS-T missile under the port wing
Anti-Radiation Missile). The Tornado ECR's operated out of Incirlik, Turkey on anti-Daesh operations from late 2015 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve; and whilst the Tornado is gradually being replaced by the Eurofighter, it is scheduled to remain in service with the Luftwaffe until 2035.
Seen about to line up on the threshold of Runway 25 at Coningsby, #46-40 also carries a couple of Tiger-striped drop-tanks, albeit somewhat more subdued than those on #46-23
Captured landing back at RAF Coningsby on 10th September
'Harpoon 24' sport's Tiger-striped underwing fuel tanks and AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs)
#ZJ920 is captured as it crosses the piano keys at the end of Runway 25
The aircraft carries an Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) under the port wing
#ZK331 was last noted operating with 11 Squadron. It was captured taxying out during Cobra Warrior, but as already mentioned, we are unsure if the squadron took part in the exercise