Formerly known as the ‘Combined Qualified Weapons Instructor Course’, Cobra Warrior is the RAF’s largest multinational exercise event which is held at RAF Waddington in the United Kingdom and hosted by the Royal Air Force. This exercise is aimed at enhancing and concluding the tactical training of its weapons school instructors, more specifically the Qualified Weapons Instructor, Qualified Multi-engine Tactics Instructor, Qualified Weapons Instructor Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, and Qualified Space Instructor students. The exercise also helps the tactical leadership skills of aircrew and supporting elements within a complex air environment.
The exercise was held in early September (1-20) for two weeks with 2 daily missions one starting in the morning and the other in the afternoon, as is typical with many European military exercises. Needless to say that the attraction of the Israeli Air Force, German Air Force and Italian Air Force to this exercise attracted the attention of quite a numerous amount of military aviation enthusiasts, and MAR was no exception.
RAF Waddington was the main airbase hosting the exercise. RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire is one of the RAF’s busiest Stations as the hub of UK Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) and the main operating base for airborne intelligence aircraft and systems like the E-3D Sentry AEW1. On the aprons where RAF intelligence aircraft are normally parked, during Cobra Warrior 2019 one could note the newly acquired RC-135s, E-3D sentry, Sentinel R.1, Reaper MQ-9, Shadow R1 and the Britten-Norman islander (Defender AL2 ). Air ISTAR is the RAF’s eyes and ears in the sky and provides British and NATO military commanders with critical information about activity on the ground, in the air, and at sea.
Local & Foreign Participation
The exercise has seen the foreign participation of several air forces in the past, including Saudi Arabia in 2015, Germany in 2016, and Italy in 2018. In 2019, 5 countries brought a total of 50 aircraft from all around the globe. The main participants where all based in Lincolnshire, whereas the rest where based at different RAF stations.
Besides the ISTAR platforms operating our of RAF Waddington, the RAF participated with their Eurofighter Typhoons and F-35s which where based at RAF Coningsby and RAF Marham respectively. Other RAF assets included the Airbus A330 MRTT Voyager based at RAF Brize Norton. A German Air Force Airbus A310 MRTT was also noted at RAF Brize Norton supporting the German Eurofighters participating in the same exercise.
United States Air Force
USAF participation consisted of F-15 Eagles from 48th Fighter Wing RAF Lakenheath, B-52s from 307th Bomber Wing Barksdale AFB and B-2s from 509th Bomber Wing Whiteman AFB, the latter two units temporarily deployed to RAF Fairford.
The Luftwaffe participated with 10 Eurofighter EF-2000s from the Tactical Air Force Wing 73 “Steinhoff” based in north-eastern Germany at Rostock-Laage Airport near Rostock. Tactical Air Force Wing 73 “Steinhoff”, formerly known as Jagdgeschwader 73 (Fighter Wing 73), is a fighter wing of the German Air Force. Its role includes general air defence as well as training for the Eurofighter Typhoon.
A single Airbus A310 MRTT also participated in the exercise providing Air to Air refuelling capabilities for the German Eurofighters and was based at RAF Brize Norton. The first operational use of the A310 MRTT with the German Air Force took place on 4 February 2009, when three German Eurofighter Typhoons of Jagdgeschwader 73 Steinhoff (30+23, 30+25, and 30+38), lead by Colonel Andreas Schick, were refuelled en-route by an A310 MRTT tanker aircraft during their deployment from Laage Airbase, Rostock, Germany, to Yelahanka Air Force Station, near Bangalore, India. The A310s are nomally based at Köln-Bonn air base and operate with the Flugbereitschaft des Bundesministeriums der Verteidigung (FBS BMVg) transport Wing.
The Aeronautica Militare Italiana participated with 4 EF-2000 Eurofighters from 3 different squadrons (the 4° Stormo from Grosseto air base, 36° Stormo from Gioia del Colle airbase, and 37° Stormo from Trapani airbase.
On 16 December 2005, the F-2000 Typhoon reached initial operational capability (IOC) with the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare). Its F-2000 Typhoons were put into service as air defence fighters at Grosseto Air Base, and immediately assigned to Quick Reaction Alert at the same base. On 17 July 2009, Italian Air Force F-2000A Typhoons were deployed to protect Albania’s airspace whereas on 29 March 2011, Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons flew in combat air patrol missions in support of NATO’s Operation Unified Protector in Libya.
It was a good exercise for the Italians who participated with aircraft and personnel from all units that fly the Eurofighter.
This year’s exercise saw the Israeli Air Force take part for the first time, culminated by the recent collaborations with the Royal Air Force resulting in an improved working relationship. Israel and UK have participated in several joint exercises these past few years, and the RAF is earmarked to participate in upcoming Blue Flag exercises in Israel in the coming years, which would be the first time that RAF fighters are allowed to fly freely within Israeli airspace.
The Israeli Air force participated with 3 F-15C Baz and 4 F-15D Baz from the 106 squadron based in Tel Nof as well as with a C-130J-30 Hercules and a KC-707 Re’em tanker.
In 1995 Heyl Ha’avir embarked upon the the ‘Baz-2000’ program for improving the F-15s and readying them for battlefield of the 21st century. The program involved thorough changes in the avionics systems and was completed in 2005. The improvements included the upgrade of the cockpit controls that display data received from the radar and additional sensors that the plane is fitted with. The old weapons computer was also replaced by a newer model, of the kind that was installed in the F-15I’s. At the end of the improvement process, the F-15s were also fitted with avionics on a level similar to that of the F-16’s.
It was a brilliant exercise with plenty of action that MAR members had the privilege to witness just a few months before the pandemic struck the world and stopped most military exercises. MAR hope to be able to attend more similar large scale exercises such as Cobra Warrior in the near future!