Exercise ELITE 2006 Feature Report
Thursday 4th May - Thursday 18th May
Exercise ELITE - for many an avation enthusiast, it's a reminder of great days; fantastic weather, a tremendous variety of far from common exercise participants and, thanks to the annual Spotters Days that accompany the exercise, some superb photo opportunities as well. Fortunately for those who had got their applications in early enough, this year was to be no different, and in addition to the large number of participating aircraft descending upon Lechfield Air Base in Germany, there were a large number of aviation enthisiasts too.
UKAR's Dutch correspondantmade a trip across the border to report from neighbouring Germany. All photography by the author.
Exercise ELITE is an annual event organised by the German Air Force. Running this year from the 4th to the 18th of May, the goal of the exercise is to encourage co-operation between various NATO Air Forces as well as training the German land based air defence units. The exercise mostly focuses on Electronic Warfare techniques, which explains the abbreviation ELITE: Electronic warfare LIve Training Exercise.
During the exercise, the attending aircraft flew two sorties each day to the Heuberg range, where air defence units from various nations were lying in wait, enabling both air and ground forces to practise their own tactics.
The airborne assets participating in ELITE 2006 consisted of the following:
- C-160D - German Air Force
- C-160R - French Air Force
- C-295M - Polish Air Force
- Falcon 20ECM - Royal Norwegian Air Force
Laupheim Army Base
- CH-53G(S) - German Army
- CH-47D - Royal Netherlands Air Force
- AS-532U2 - Royal Netherlands Air Force
- AS-532UL - Swiss Air Force
Lechfeld Air Base
- Tornado ECR - German Air Force
- Tornado IDS - German Air Force
- Bö-105 - German Army
- F-16C/D - Hellenic Air Force
- SU-22M4/UM3K - Polish Air Force
- F-16C/D - Turkish Air Force
- F-4E - Turkish Air Force
- Tornado GR.4 - Royal Air Force
- EF-18A - Spanish Air Force
Manching Air Base
- F-18C - Finnish Air Force
- F/A-18C - Swiss Air Force
There were also a number of other aircraft taking part in the exercise which were operating from their home bases, including French Air Force E-3F AWACS flying from Avord, Tornado IDS from both Büchel and Nörvenich Air Bases in Germany, NATO E-3As out of Geilenkirchen airbase and F-4F Phantoms from Neuburg
Coinciding with the exercise each year the kind people of Lechfeld Air Base also organize a spotters day, during which enthusiasts are given the opportunity to photograph the participating aircraft as they launch and recover to the field on the morning sorties.
Entry to the spotters day is free, but you need to get your applications in early as there's a deadline.
This year, on the 11th of May, Lechfield opened its doors and over 400 enthusiasts had the opportunity to photograph the flying activities again from one of two designated spots; one at the threshold and the other halfway down the runway. Since I opted for the threshold last year, I decided to take my chances halfway down the runway this year and again I was not disappointed.
During the press day, which preceded the spotters day, the weather had been atrocious, but fortunately the weather was fantastic again for the Spotters Day with warm sunshine all day long.
After visiting Lechfeld we also stopped off to have a look at some of the other participants operating from Landsberg and Manching, and all in all it made for a great trip. You can be sure I’ll be back for the next ELITE!