30 service men and women from the Tactical Air Force Squadron 73 “Steinhoff” in Laage went to Iceland, together with a very small logistics package.
Colonel Gerd Schnell, commander of the German Air Force’s Steinhoff Squadron, said that the exercise had two primary objectives — pilot training and demonstrating how swiftly a deployment like this can be planned and executed.
He said: “We used Rapid Viking as an exercise to train our young pilots. We had three instructor pilots training the young guys over there. But there is a broader context – the rapid deployment element – which is about minimising the footprint during the overseas mission.
“In this case, we went to Iceland to demonstrate that we could deploy quickly, with six Eurofighters and only 30 personnel and about 25 tons of supply.”
Typically, this could be a logistics load of somewhere between 130 and 150 tons.
Colonel Schnell added: “We left some of the bigger spare parts at home, for example, we did not bring a spare engine. Part of the logistics training that we carried out was to do reach-back with our home base and identify the spare parts we needed and only bring them to Iceland when we needed to.”
These ‘rapid’ deployments aren’t a new thing. Last year the Luftwaffe carried out Rapid Pacific, which meant going to Singapore within 24 hours. Next year a deployment to Australia is being planned. Such longer distances necessitate a slightly different approach compared to a relatively simple four-hour hop from Germany to Iceland.
In long distance deployments you need to bring more personnel and more spare parts. But the thinking remains the same — we try to identify the minimum that we need.
“In long distance deployments you need to bring more personnel and more spare parts. But the thinking remains the same — we try to identify the minimum that we need.”
For the pilots the two-week Rapid Viking was serious business and they got down to work immediately. The compact footprint meant the team were able to get anything they needed quickly — as everything and everybody was close at hand.
German Air Force pilot Timon says: “As soon as we arrived, we carried out a couple of sorties and we’re soon making one flight a day. The training days were lengthy — with long flights, long briefs, long debriefs.”
The main focus was flight leadership with the less experienced pilots undergoing training to become flight leaders. The work outs included different tactics and manoeuvres, with pilots working as 2v1 and also going on Quick Reaction Alert operations. Here pilots carried out what the air force calls ‘Alpha’ scrambles where they intercepted ‘adversary’ fighters or aircraft that needed help.
Adds Timon: “Overall Rapid Viking was a good team effort — and that's why it's called Team Luftwaffe.”
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