RAF Jets Join NATO Allies in Exercise Over the North Sea
(Source: Royal Air Force; issued Sept 11, 2020)
Aircraft from the Royal Air Force, United States Marine Corps, the United States Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force have been conducting large scale exercises over the North Sea.
Exercise Point Blank is a regular quarterly exercise based in the UK, conducted by the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force. For this exercise both RAF and United State Marine Corps F-35Bs jets are taking part as the first step in their training ready for deployment on HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force sent their F-35As and there are also two USAF F-16 squadrons that are based in Italy taking part plus US B. The gathering of so many aircraft allows large-scale training missions to be conducted.
The Minister for Armed Forces James Heappey MP said: “Flying alongside three fellow NATO nations over and around the UK in a complex war fighting scenario involving over 50 aircraft is exactly the sort of training that keeps our Royal Air Force sharp and ready to operate alongside our Allies whenever and wherever the call comes.”
Commander Mark Sparrow RN, the Officer Commanding 617 Squadron RAF said: “This has been a fantastic first step in 617 Squadron operations with the USMC’s VMFA 211 Squadron, as we prepare to embark on HMS Queen Elizabeth as a team. The exercise provided excellent integration training for the F35 B s with our US, Dutch and the Typhoon Force colleagues.
“This integration is key to Lightning operations and Exercise Point Blank is the first of the many important steps needed to create a fully integrated Carrier Strike Group ready to deploy next year operationally for the first-time onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.”
The exercise is the first flying training USMC Squadron has carried out following their arrival in the UK at RAF Marham and follows a period of isolation as a precautionary measure to combat COVID-19.
The Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth took part in the exercise to provide the “enemy” role, this adds a significant challenge to the other exercising aircraft.
Group Captain Chris Layden, the Station Commander of RAF Lossiemouth, said: “Our Typhoons have played a different role in this iteration of Exercise Point Blank. They acted as the Aggressors against the fifth-generation F-35s from the RAF, US Marine Corps, and Royal Netherlands Air Force, simulating the tactics and threats of our adversaries whilst challenging their colleagues in a series of complex air-to-air battles that tested the skills of the pilots involved, and pushed these world-class aircraft to their limits.”
Reflecting on the exercise Air Commodore David Arthurton OBE RAF, the Commander of the UK’s Lightning Force that operates the F-35B Lightning said: “This exercise is an important training opportunity, allowing the Lightning Force to enhance its interoperability with our American colleagues and conduct very complex training for our personnel on a regular basis. Exercise Point Blank also affords an opportunity to integrate with our NATO allies, not only improving our combined potency but also providing a clear demonstration of the Alliance’s resolve.”
Bombers, Marine F-35s Join Point Blank 20-4 Exercise
(Source: US Air Force; issued Sept 11, 2020)
RAF LAKENHEATH, UK --- More than 50 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force participated in exercise Point Blank 20-04 over the North Sea, Sep. 10.
A high-end fight focused on fourth and fifth-generation defensive counter air integration, this exercise saw the return of U.S. Air Force F-15s and KC-135s, RNLAF F-16s, RAF and RNLAF F-35s, RAF Typhoons, and a RAF Voyager.
“Flying alongside fellow NATO nations over and around the United Kingdom in a complex war-fighting scenario involving over 50 aircraft is exactly the sort of training that keeps our Royal Air Force sharp and ready to operate alongside our allies whenever and wherever the call comes,” said James Heappey, U.K. minister for Armed Forces.
The exercise also included first-time participation of U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command B-52 Stratofortress operating out of RAF Fairford, F-16s from the 510th and 555th Fighter Squadrons from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and U.S. Marine Corps F-35s from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211.
“For the 31st Fighter Wing, this is an excellent opportunity to participate in a large force exercise within USAFE (United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa); allowing our warfighters the opportunity to practice fighting a near-peer adversary,” said Maj. John Hamilton, 555th Fighter Squadron. “It allows us to train alongside some of our NATO partners and boost our interoperability with a variety of airframes.”
Point Blank is a large force exercise designed to sharpen combat readiness and increase tactical proficiency of the U.S., Ministry of Defence and other NATO forces.
“Our Typhoons acted as the aggressors against the fifth-generation F-35s from the RAF, U.S. Marine Corps and Royal Netherlands Air Force, simulating the tactics and threats of our adversaries whilst challenging their colleagues in a series of complex air-to-air battles that tested the skills of the pilots involved, and pushed these world-class aircraft to their limits,” said Group Captain Chris Layden, RAF Lossiemouth station commander.
Multilateral exercises like this increase interoperability, deter potential adversaries and ensure the skies within the European theater remain sovereign.
“Exercises like Point Blank allow us to validate digital interoperability with Squadron 617 and is an opportunity to conduct realistic, relevant training with the United States Air Force, and NATO's allies, expanding our global influence by developing capabilities that can share the burden in addressing common defense challenges," said Lt. Col. Joseph F. Freshour, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 commanding officer.
Royal Netherlands Air Force spokesperson, Maj. Marleen Molema, added, “We value the excellent opportunity Point Blank provides us to maintain and improve interoperability with our NATO allies.”
Point Blank is a recurring, low-cost exercise initiative designed to increase tactical proficiency and demonstrate the collective commitment to regional security.
“The 48th Fighter Wing and our U.K. allies continue to lead the way with each iteration of Point Blank. Through our continued partnership, we are demonstrating the ability of allies and partners to seamlessly operate with one another across all domains in challenging and demanding scenarios,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, USAFE-AFAFRICA commander. “This ultimately makes us experts at what we do, which is deliver air superiority anywhere across the globe.”