RAF

Aircraft flying from RAF Coningsby and RAF Waddington will be part a regular quarterly training operation over the North Sea known as Exercise Point Blank, which will be ongoing until the end of next week.

Exercise Point Blank is conducted by the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force based in the UK. However, for this exercise, US aircraft from other European air bases and the Royal Netherlands Air Force are also taking part.

The RAF Typhoons taking part are drawn from 3(Fighter), XI(Fighter), 29 and 41 squadrons and are being supported by Voyager tankers.


Royal Air Force Typhoons from 29 Squadron based at RAF Coningsby are taking part in Exercise Point Blank. | Photo: UK MOD Crown Copyright 2021

An E-3D Sentry during take-off from RAF Waddington on April 6, 2021. | Photo: UK MOD Crown Copyright 2021

The RAF Voyagers will operate in formation to allow up to four fighters to simultaneously refuel.

The exercise also sees all three of the United States Air Force European based fighter wings taking part for the first time.

It is designed to promote interoperability between 4.5 and 5th Generation aircraft as they exercise together during complex Air Missions.

Exercise Point Blank is a regular RAF and United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) exercise that this year also includes the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF). | Photo: UK MOD Crown Copyright 2021

The UK-based 48th Fighter Wing from RAF Lakenheath will be joined by F-16s from Aviano Air Base inItaly and Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany.

The F-16s will be flying long range sorties supported by Air to Air Refueling from USAF KC-135 tankers based at RAF Mildenhall and so will not be landing in the UK.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force are also participating in the exercise flying F-16s and F35As from their bases in the Netherlands. In total over 50 aircraft will be committed to the exercise flying missions for four days.

Planning, briefing and debriefing for this exercise is being conducted entirely remotely. | Photo: UK MOD Crown Copyright 2021

Exercise Point Blank is being controlled by the Tactical Command and Control teams in Number 1 Air Control Centre at RAF Scampton, a part of the UK’s Air Surveillance and Control System, and on board a RAF E-3D Sentry from 8 Squadron RAF.

Planning, briefing and debriefing for this exercise is being conducted entirely remotely.

The exercise is designed to promote interoperability between 4.5 and 5th Generation aircraft. | Photo: UK MOD Crown Copyright 2021

Squadron Leader Jim Fordham, the RAF’s exercise coordinator based at RAF Coningsby, said: “Exercise Point Blank is a hugely valuable training opportunity for the RAF.

“It allows us to practice integrating with fighters from the UK’s closest ally and other NATO partners, going up against a range of simulated modern air and surface-air threats.

“The different aircraft types each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but when combined together our lethality and survivability however is greatly increased.

“The only way to generate this formidable allied capability is to regularly train together, developing and improving our tactics.”

The Red Arrows have flown back to RAF Scampton after being grounded on Thursday due to a Royal Navy jet crash in Cornwall.

All Hawk T1 activity was paused as a precautionary measure after the jet crash, in which it is believed an engine failure forced two pilots to eject from the aircraft based at RNAS Culdrose.

Two pilots were airlifted to hospital and are in a stable condition without suffering significant injury. It’s believed this was due to an engine failure.

The crash, which was the first ejection from a Royal Navy aircraft in 18 years, caused the Reds to be temporarily grounded, but they have now returned to Lincolnshire after being cleared to fly again.

Following numerous safety assessments of the wider fleet, the chain of command at the RAF allowed for Hawk T1 aircraft to take to the skies again, but confirmed that investigations into the incident are still ongoing.

The RAF has said that it will be “inappropriate to comment on the nature of this advice” as it could prejudice the inquiry that is currently taking place, but “safety is always our priority.”

Earlier this week the Reds had their first practice flight in a 9-formation.

All Hawk T1 jets, including the Red Arrows, have been grounded after a Navy jet crashed in Cornwall on Thursday.

It’s believed an engine failure forced two pilots to eject from the aircraft from the 736 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose.

The pause is a precautionary measure, the Ministry of Defence said.

Meanwhile, the two pilots who were airlifted to hospital, are in a stable condition “without significant injury.”

An MoD spokesperson said: “Safety is our paramount concern. The RAF has decided to temporarily pause Hawk T1 operations as a precautionary measure, while investigations are ongoing.”

It’s unclear how long the Red Arrows will be grounded for.

This week they ramped up their training and flew the first nine-ship formation of the year.

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