RAMSTEIN, Germany – For the first time, Germany and Spain have collectively executed NATO’s enhanced Air Policing. A mixed German-Spanish flight of quick reaction alert interceptors flew sorties safeguarding the Baltic airspace.
We increased the detachment size by one third and almost doubled the mission output. For us it is a huge success – and it is a huge success for NATO as well
Under the concept of “plug-and-fight”, a small detachment of approx. 60 Spanish Air Force personnel integrated with the 140-strong German main enhanced Air Policing detachment at Ämari Air Base in Estonia. Together both detachments operated a fleet of nine Eurofighter jets. When ordered to launch by NATO’s northern Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem in Germany, one Spanish and one German Eurofighters take off on a combined sortie e.g. to identify and escort non-NATO aircraft securing the NATO airspace above the Baltic nations.
During the "Plug-and-fight" deployment, German tank trucks refuelled Spanish Eurofighters on the ground. Photo by Michel Scheller / Bundeswehr.
German and Spanish maintainers and technicians worked together to ensure jets were ready all the time. Photo by Guagliano / Bundeswehr.
A German A-400M conducts tactical air-to-air refuelling of a mixed Spanish-German twoship during a training mission. Photo by Bundeswehr.
Diamond formation of two German and two Spanish Eurofighters conducting a fly-by at Ämari Air Base in Estonia. Photo by Michel Scheller / Bundeswehr.
“This combined deployment allowed for a significant reduction of our footprint in terms of personnel and materiel,” said Lieutenant Colonel Georg Hummel, German Detachment Commander. “Summing up the result of this interoperability endeavour we increased the detachment size by one third and almost doubled the mission output. For us it is a huge success – and it is a huge success for NATO as well,” he concluded.
The cooperation among pilots was smooth, after all, they are flying the same basic aircraft type Pilot training has been standardised NATO-wide and several German pilots actually conducted some of their Eurofighter training in Spain.
“With these combined alert missions we have achieved great success as a result of teamwork and thanks to the interoperability of our advanced weapons system,” said Major Miguel Ángel López García, Spanish Detachment Commander. “Shared maintenance has reduced the logistics footprint, deploying fewer personnel and material by each country for this type of operation, and twice the joint operability of the Eurofighters has been generated than would have been obtained if both countries had worked separately," he added..
For the first time in this cooperation among Eurofighter user nations, the German Air Force provided arms, guided missiles and ammunition for the on-board gun for the Spanish jets. They received fuel from German tank trucks and German tractors moved them on the apron. As and when required, the Germans made available smaller spare parts for the Spanish jets; for larger hydraulic and mechanic components a case-by-case review was conducted. Since both nations operate different versions of the Eurofighter, the replacement and exchange of electronic parts was not always possible. This meant that the Spanish detachment did bring their own spare parts kit which, however, was much less comprehensive than one required for an autonomous deployment.
German technicians executed most of the repair on the Spanish Eurofighters; a Spanish supervisor oversaw and certified their work; translators helped to overcome the language barrier and avoid any misapprehensions that might have sensitive repercussions. Each nation conducted final pre-flight checks because of major differences between German and Spanish procedures. Upon return-to-base, each nation’s ground crews again received their jet for post-flight inspection. German technicians conducted smaller repair work to ensure jets were turned around for the next mission with minimum delay.
After almost three weeks of cooperation and two weeks of combined flying missions, both the technical and the flying teams have closely worked together. A combined squadron spirit has developed among the quick reaction alert interceptor detachment during mission and training flights enhancing interoperability among Eurofighter user nations..