Without doubt the highlight of this year's Cobra Warrior was the attendance of the Israeli Air Force. Seven F-15C/D Eagles (known as 'Baz' -or Falcon by the IAF) from 106 Squadron at Tel Nof air base took part in the exercise, with Boeing KC-707 'Re'em' tankers from 120 Squadron providing an air-to-air refuelling capability in the final week.
EF2000 #30+56 banks hard as it breaks for landing after a CW2019 mission
Eurofighter Typhoon #MM7352/36-55 from 36º Stormo is displayed during the Cobra Warrior Media Day
Italian Air Force at Cobra Warrior
German Eurofighter Detachment
120 Squadron 'Desert Giants' supported the Israeli Cobra Warrior detachment, providing both transportation and aerial refuelling for the F-15 'Baz'. Note that no national markings/roundels are worn by the KC-707
The IAF had three main goals for Cobra Warrior - improving the strategic co-operation between the countries involved, providing the aircrew with an operational exercise featuring a wide variety of challenging missions and thirdly, improving the IAF’s status by proving its capabilities both in the air and on the ground.
The Boeing KC-707 Re'em aircraft from 120 Squadron 'Desert Giants' joined the exercise for the last week only, but provided assistance from the very beginning. They helped transfer the F-15s using three KC-707 refuelling aircraft, which refuelled the seven jets that took off from Israel.
The IAF played both Red and Blue forces in Cobra Warrior, giving them the opportunity to take a lot of different experiences back to Israel. “It is an opportunity to make our pilots combat ready”, said Brig Gen Ein-Dar.
Typical weapons fit of a German EF2000 during CW2019 as it heads out for a mission
IAF F-15s all carry names on the port-side nose. #715 has the name Shoshnat Ha'Ruchot (Rose of the Winds)
We'd like to thank the following for their assistance in making this article possible-
Sqn Ldr Peter Singlehurst (RAF Media-Ops)
Gp Capt Robert Barrett (Cobra Warrior Exercise Director)
Brig Gen Amnon Ein-Dar (Israeli Air Force - Head of Training and Doctrine Directorate)
Lt Col Bernd Pfahler (Luftwaffe Detachment Commander)
Capt. Marco Setini (Italian Air Force Executive Officer)
Luftwaffe Airbus A.310-MRTT #10+24 took up residence at Brize Norton throughout the exercise to provide air-to-air refuelling for the German Eurofighter contingent
Cobra Warrior 2019 saw the culmination of the RAF's QWI course. Eight months long in length, CW2019 saw the co-operation between the UK and Israeli military extended further. In recent years the two countries have had a much closer relationship - in June, the RAF and IAF carried out a joint exercise with the US Air Force over the eastern Mediterranean, unique in that it involved the new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning fighter aircraft from all three air forces. Following on from that, an RAF Typhoon fighter landed at Ramat David airbase in Israel as part of RAF operations in the region. Having attended the Blue Flag exercise in Israel in 2017 as observers, the RAF is expected to attend in a similar role in this year's event during November, with the hope that they will bring aircraft to the next one. With the German and Italian Air Forces further enhancing their participation in the exercise, both using it as part of their QWI courses, Cobra Warrior is expected to expand even further in 2020. In addition to the participants already mentioned - the USAF were involved with a B-52 bomber operating from RAF Fairford together with F-15s from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath. We were told that international participation for Cobra Warrior 2020 could well increase further - thus making it all the more interesting.
activity this year has been at medium-level stand fast; the helicopters working at low-level over Northumbria. Waddington doesn’t normally host fast-jet aircraft, so the station has put in an enormous effort to facilitate participation by the foreign fast-jets”.
Group Captain Robert Barrett gave us an overview of Cobra Warrior – “We describe the exercise as a large-force employment live exercise (LIVEX). There are up to 50 aircraft participating on certain missions. The missions are planned as COMAOs – with a large number of aircraft performing different roles within the overall construct of the exercise to achieve a number of tactical objectives. There are a wide number of types involved – you’ve seen today the fighter aircraft that are participating, but there’s also ISTAR aircraft, air-to-air refuelling tanker aircraft and we have been simulating the involvement of our uninhabited aircraft such as the Reaper UAV. A number of the missions have also included battlefield helicopters from the Air Force and Army. The reasoning behind Cobra Warrior is to develop the skills of our tactical leaders and frontline crews. That includes pilots and aircrew, but we also bring in support personnel (intelligence commanders, command and control specialists) who will be involved in the training of the whole pyramid of the exercise – underpinning the structural parts as well.
Gp Capt Barrett went on to explain more about CW'19; "The ‘centre of gravity’ for the exercise is here at RAF Waddington, this is where all of the planning happens - it’s where all of the briefing and de-briefing goes on. That said; RAF stations from across the U.K are involved in the exercise, so whilst most of the activity is here, the flying exercise proper takes place out over the North Sea off the coast of Newcastle. Most of the
Aircraft of various types participated in the exercise, controlled by directing staff at RAF Waddington. Exercise Director, Group Captain Robert Barrett said: “The RAF welcomes the participation of our Air Force colleagues from other nations and we welcome the opportunity to train alongside all of the participating nations’ forces on this challenging exercise. I have a responsibility to ensure all the pilots achieve the objectives they are setting out to; and I also have a responsibility to service the higher headquarters – what the U.K would call the JFAC (Joint-Force Airborne Component) commander, bringing an operational view to the exercise".
Under the command of Lt Col Bernd Pfahler, the Eurofighters of Luftwaffengeschwader 73 are no strangers to Cobra Warrior exercises. Cobra Warrior is the capstone exercise of the RAF's exercise programme, aiming to provide the most complex exercise possible, with as many different participants as it can. It serves the Royal Air Force, the Luftwaffe and the Aeronautica Militare as a graduation exercise for weapons instructors – all three air arms running their weapons instructor courses during Cobra Warrior. Lieutenant Colonel Dirk Pingel, the head of Weapons Instructor Training for the German Air Force said; "Cobra Warrior offers us the opportunity to complete training within the Mission Employment Phase for our future Weapons Instructors. The level of training combined with the variety of training partners help achieve the required standards within the Weapons School Criteria."
Seen on approach to RAF Waddington during Cobra Warrior is an upgraded Beechcraft Shadow R.1A of 14 Sqn
It is identifiable by the fairing atop the dorsal fin and the antenna just below the tail-fin extension
#583 is one of three F-15Cs that 106 Squadron brought to Cobra Warrior
Of note is that the IAF F-15 pilots always deployed the large dorsal air-brake on approach
This Typhoon, captured as it overshoots at Waddington's Runway 20, is from 36° Stormo based at Gioia del Colle
Of the four Italian Typhoons involved in Cobra Warrior, two were from 36° Stormo
The Beechcraft Shadow R.1 is designed to complement the Sentinel R.1 fleet with its electro-optical and electronic capabilities in preparing a comprehensive intelligence picture. Its satellite communication links enable it to download information during a mission.
Integrated into a modified Beechcraft King Air 350CER, the aircraft were ordered to meet an urgent requirement to improve the RAF's intelligence gathering. The fleet is currently undergoing an upgrade to R.1A standard, with one of the first upgraded aircraft noted at RAF Waddington during the Cobra Warrior exercise (right).
Led by the Italian Air Force Executive Officer, Capt. Marco Setini, the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI - Italian Air Force) sent four Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft to this year's Cobra Warrior. No strangers to the event, having attended in 2018, the aircraft involved came from all three AMI wings that fly the Typhoon - 4, 36 and 37 Stormo. "We are honoured to participate again in this very demanding and well organised international exercise" said Colonel Urbano Floreani, 4th Wing Commander. "It will be a chance to fly with a selection of the best Weapons Instructors of the participating countries. Sharing our experiences will mutually increase our capabilities".
The Sentinel R.1 has had a somewhat strange career in RAF service. Based on the Bombardier Global Express, the aircraft serves with 5 Squadron, delivering wide-area land surveillance. Entering service in 2008, it has been a primary player in the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, with the Sentinel capable of keeping track of moving vehicles, taking highly detailed synthetic aperture radar images over huge swathes of the battlefield at stand-off ranges. But, despite its capabilities, it has on more than one occasion been slated for withdrawal and only time will tell how much longer it remains on strength.
An Israeli F-15 in formation with Italian and German Eurofighters
The nations also brought their instructor staff with them, providing oversight and instruction, and ensuring they got what they needed out of the exercise. Illustrating CW19's true international nature, Capitán Fernando Rojas of the Spanish Air Force, on exchange with the German Air Force TLG74 wing, participated as an instructor, whilst a number of ‘contractor’ aircraft also flew in the exercise, simulating adversary aircraft.
Previously known as the Combined Qualified Weapons Instructor course, exercise Cobra Warrior focused on RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, in 2019. This year’s exercise saw the Israeli Air Force (IAF) take part for the first time; the Royal Air Force (RAF) and IAF having developed an extensive working relationship in recent times. Held between 1-20 September, 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. With the Italian and German Air Forces also in attendance it was an exercise not to be missed.
Participants in this year's Cobra Warrior exercise came from the RAF, Royal Navy and the British Army; as well as the foreign participants. Gp Capt Barrett told us; "I should emphasise that the foreign participants are involved throughout the exercise, so it’s not just at the spearhead of the fast-jets that you are seeing - they’re also involved in the intelligence briefing functions, working up the command and control plans".
Israeli Air Force
The Luftwaffe contingent was made up of Eurofighters from Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 73 based at Laage
Cobra Warrior 2019
The IAF at Cobra Warrior - Brigadier General Amnon Ein-Dar, a former F-16 pilot and now in command of the IAF Air Division, told us about Israel's commitment to Cobra Warrior; “This the first time we have been involved in Cobra Warrior and we are very happy to be here. We are very impressed with the abilities of the Royal Air Force - the way they fly and execute the exercise”. Asked how the IAF quantify the training with the RAF, he said; “We are having a very good relationship with the Royal Air Force; the last year has been very busy with three major exercises, this being the largest one. Hopefully we will see the Royal Air Force in Israel in the big exercise we hold every two years (Blue Flag) - we would be more than happy to have them”.
F-15D Baz #980 heads out for an early morning mission
#30+64 is seen about to land at RAF Waddington
The aircraft carries an IRIS-T missile on the outer-wing pylon and a LITENING III targeting pod on the centre-line pylon
Brig Gen Ain-Dar said about Cobra Warrior; “Coming to any international exercise, particularly in the U.K is very important, as it gives our guys the opportunity to fly in an environment and in a language that we are not use to and of course weather that is very different to what we are used to. Altogether it’s a very good experience when you want to make your guys combat ready. Another thing that is very important is to learn from the other participants, as they are all very good”.
Seen heading back to its dispersal at RAF Waddington on 17th September, #MM7311/4-55 wears the markings of 9 Gruppo/4 Stormo Caccia. 4º Wing is based at Grosetto air base some 150km north of Rome
#980 is one of nine ex-U.S. Air National Guard F-15Ds that previously served with the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Ex- #-80-0055, it was delivered through RAF Lakenheath in September 2016
Built in the United States and improved in Israel - that's how the IAF see their F-15 fleet. Having undergone two upgrade programmes, which amongst other things gave them an air-to-ground capability; then add in Elbit’s Display And Sight Helmet (DASH - enables pilots to aim their weapons simply by looking at the target), upgraded radars, cockpit upgrades including a new Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS); Multi-function displays (MFD) and new data-links, combined with a SATCOM (Satellite Communications) system; a new electronic warfare suite integrated into the jets mission computers and GPS navigation systems, the IAF Baz are probably the most advanced F-15s in the world. The IAF F-15s are all based at Tel Nof with either 106 'Spearhead' Squadron and 133 'Twin Tail' Squadron.
Located on the west coast of Italy between Rome and Firenze, 4º Stormo forms an integral part of the Italian and NATO air defence system. Along with Trapani and Gioia del Colle, Grosseto provides the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) for the defence of Italian airspace. Having taken on the QRA for central and northern Italy in December 2005, 4º Stormo has subsequently taken on the role of providing air defence for Albania and Slovenia since early 2010, as well as providing support to Switzerland's limited QRA mission. In addition to the QRA responsibility, 4º Stormo has also been involved in NATO's Air Policing role over Iceland and the Baltic states.
RAF Waddington's ISTAR Fleet
F-15D #583 in full afterburner as it roars down Runway 20 at RAF Waddington
The Boeing RC-135 Rivet-Joint (above) is one of the newest platforms in the RAF inventory, but also one of the oldest aircraft. The aircraft operated by 51 Squadron at Waddington entered service in 2013, having been converted from ex-USAF KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refuelling aircraft. One of the fleet of three aircraft is constantly undergoing upgrade to the latest technology under the Spiral Upgrade Programme - which also incorporates depot maintenance at the same time. Fundamentally a signal intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft, the RC-135 collects a swathe of data from across the electromagnetic spectrum.
F-15C #810, named Peten (Desert Cobra) is seen parked next to a Luftwaffe Eurofighter at RAF Waddington
Instantly recognisable as the U.K's AWACS (Airborne Early Warning and Control System), the Boeing E-3D Sentry's of 8 Squadron provide Airborne Early Warning (AEW), operating as a flying radar station capable of looking over the horizon. The Sentry fleet is slated for withdrawal by 2025, with its role being taken on by the Boeing E-7A
Although all of the German EF2000s wore the markings of TLG.73,
however it is likely that the crews came from a number of wings that operate the type in Luftwaffe service
MiG Killer - On the 8th June 1982, Major Shaul Simon, flying F-15C #818 of 133 ‘Twin Tail’ Squadron destroyed a Syrian Air Force Mikoyan MiG-23 with an AIM-7F Sparrow missile. Flying with his wingman, Debi Rosenthal in another F-15 (#832), both pilots simultaneously locked-on and fired a Sparrow at the MiG-23. It is not clear which aircraft’s missile actually downed the aircraft and so it is registered as a shared ‘kill’. I can find no other record of the other ‘kill’ associated with #818 and it is unclear exactly how many ‘kills’ the aircraft has. It has also been photographed carrying two complete ‘MiG kills’ but there are claims that it has been marked erroneously and that it only has claim to the ½ kill on 8th June ’82 as described above. The aircraft can be seen right carrying 1.5 kill markings.
Israeli F-15Ds are not used as trainers, but as multi-role fighters, with indigenous avionics, munitions and sub-systems, able to provide counter-air, strike, reconnaissance, and command and control and networking platforms capable of supporting long-range strike missions. The aircraft can also be fitted with indigenously developed FAST (Fuel and Sensor Tactical) Packs, also known as CFTs (Conformal Fuel Tanks), developed and built by Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI). Note the SATCOM (Satellite Communication) mounted atop the fuselage behind the rear cockpit.
Developing tactical skills and supporting elements through Composite Air Operations (COMAO), Cobra Warrior provides valuable training to the participating force elements; developing and practicing tactics, techniques and procedures by way of complex scenarios against a peer adversary.
Sentinel R.1 #ZJ694 is seen on approach to RAF Waddington during exercise Cobra Warrior 2019
The Boeing KC-707's of 120 Squadron 'Desert Giants' are based at Nevatim air base. The squadron took its first 707 into service back in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War, the squadron and its aircraft taking part in a number of operations since then - both humanitarian and operational. Known as the 'Re-em' (Oryx) in IAF service, the heavily modified aircraft, which are based on the civilian 707-300 series airliner, continue to provide an air-to-air refuelling capability for the Israeli Air Force. The Israeli government issued a Letter of Request (LoR) to the US Government for the acquisition of two Boeing KC-46 aircraft, with the intent to purchase up to eight in total, but until then the trusty 'old smokers' will need to soldier on for a few more years.
RAF Waddington is the RAF’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) main operating base and also provides for airborne intelligence aircraft. Also based at Waddington is the Air Warfare Centre, which provides timely and contextual integrated mission support to front-line commanders.
The RAF’s ISTAR fleet (Sentry AEW.1, Sentinel R.1, Shadow R.1 and RC-135W Rivet Joint) combined with Typhoon FGR.4s from RAF Coningsby and RAF Lossiemouth participated in Cobra Warrior, supported by Voyager KC.2/KC.3 tanker aircraft operating from their home base at RAF Brize Norton.