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European Air Refuelling Training 2016
Published: June 2016

European Air Refuelling Training 2016

Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands hosted the third edition of the European Air Refuelling Training (EART) exercise 2016 from April 11 – 22. The same countries as last year participated: French AF GRV 91 “Bretagne” Boeing C-135FR, German AF BMVg Airbus A310MRTT, Italian AF 14 Stormo Boeing KC-767A and Royal Netherlands AF McDonnell Douglas KDC-10. Due to operational commitments the A310MRTT operated from its home base Cologne and the Italians only participating in the first week. Simultaneously the RNLAF ran the annual fighter exercise Frisian Flag from Leeuwarden AB with the aircraft being refuelled by the EART participants.

EART development

Two years ago the first edition of EART was held by the European Defence Agency, European Air Transport Command (EATC) and RNLAF. It then aimed at getting the participating nations (Germany, Italy and Netherlands) together on the same air base primarily focusing on exchanging experiences. The next year the EATC inserted elements of the its European Air Transport Training Exercise into EART while the training & exercise branch of the functional division added an initial academics phase for the participating crews and EART saw the French Air Force join. Between the exercises the EATC had stood up a dedicated Air-to-Air refuelling cell responsible for tasking and execution missions for its members AAR assets and it send planners to Leeuwarden to coordinate the AAR request from the Frisian Flag (FF) mission commanders. The 2016 saw SHARCs (Specialized Heavy Air Refuelling Course) deployed to Leeuwarden relaying AAR support requests and providing feedback from EART crews to FF mission commanders. The academics introduced in 2015 were more structured and advanced training objectives were introduced.

EART 2016

During the exercise period missions were flown twice a day with the exception of the last day which only saw the morning sortie conducted. The morning missions with an estimated departure time (ETD) of 09:00 were planned and briefed during the afternoon of the previous day from around 15:00 – 19:00. The afternoon sorties were planned in the morning with an ETD of 13:00. Due to the limited turnaround time for the maintenance crews, max two hours, the tankers headed back to Eindhoven after completing their refuelling task in the morning. The afternoon mission provided more time for dedicated training which was conducted after completing the AAR. Two elements were introduced: operating in tanker formations and operating as the On Scene Commander (OSC). With the tankers able to spend the longest time on station due to their fuel load one of them was assigned OSC and coordinated the SAR mission when the scenario included recovery of a pilot who was forced to eject.

EART future

The exercise will continue to develop and combine a harmonized AAR concept, academics and offer specific AAR training within Europe. Until April 2016 three exercises all in conjunction with Frisian Flag have been conducted. It’s planned to run EARTs simultaneously with other European held exercise of which the annual NATO Tiger Meet was referred to. It provides participating fighter crews with the much needed AAR capability while it enhances interoperability within the AAR community. On the roll is the introduction of AAR kits to the Airbus D&S A400M (planned 2017) and the arrival of the new A330MRTT. France is expecting its first delivery of 12 ordered A330MRTT aircraft in 2018. Its currently unknown of these will be brought under control of the EATC or remain under control of the strategic fleet alike the current C-135FR fleet. It’s expected that a contract for three aircraft will be signed by Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway and Poland at the Farnborough International Air show July 11-15. These will be delivered from 2020 and reach full operational capability (FOC) during the summer of 2021.

The author would like to thank: Col. Jurgen van der Biezen (RNLAF / EATC), Maj. Michel (RNLAF 334 squadron) and colleagues from EATC , RNLAF and participating nations.
Participants European Air Refuelling Training 2016

Country: Aircraft: Unit: AAR System:
France C-135FR GRV 02.091 ‘Bretagne’ Boom, Drogue & Hose
Germany A310MRTT BMVg Drogue & Hose
Italy KC-767A 14 Stormo Boom, Drogue & Hose
The Netherlands KDC-10 334 Squadron Boom
EART 2016 Photo gallery
French Air Force C-135FR German Air Force A310MRTT Italian Air Force KC-767A
Royal Netherlands Air Force KDC-10 The RNLAF KDC-10 and French AF
C-135FR performing an overhead break
upon their return to Eindhoven Air Base on Apr. 21st. Both tankers supported the
Frisian Flag afternoon mission and then conducted their own (EART) exercise.