FALCON AIR MEET 2009
MULTINATIONAL F-16 LARGE FORCE EMPLOYEMENT EXERCISE AND COMPETITION IN JORDAN
Strengthening of multilateral military relations, by allowing international aircrew to closely work and train together in realistic operational conditions and -at the same time- offering an opportunity to freely exchange tactical and operational ideas and experiences, is one of the most successfull concepts in creating strong coalitions between countries and air forces.
The input of several informal air-competitions in the tactical flying programme which allows the participating pilots and groundcrew to compete against each other as 'equals' will transform them into 'winged brothers', boosting mutual respect and long lasting friendship. The positive impact of such a type of exercise and informal competition on the Kingdom of Jordan's coalition partners was brilliantly perceived and put into action by HRH Prince Feisal Bin Al Hussein.
This desire to improve multilateral relationships was quickly joined by the Colorado National Guard in the United States. On 01/04/2004 the Kingdom of Jordan and the US Colorado National Guard had signed a bi-lateral State Partnership Program to exchange military, civil and cultural ideas between the two states.
The input of several informal air-competitions in the tactical flying programme which allows the participating pilots and groundcrew to compete against each other as 'equals' will transform them into 'winged brothers', boosting mutual respect and long lasting friendship.
Initially created to improve military relationships, as part of the US Department of Defense-global security policy, between each two SPP-countries, the program rapidly also shifted to civil, economical and even cultural issues.
The first Falcon Air Meet was organised in 2006 at MSAB, attended by the RJAF, United States Air Force and the Turkish Air Force (161 Filo / Bandirma), under supervision of 120FS/140FW Colorado ANG (COANG). In 2007, the Belgian Air Component participated for the first time by sending F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons to Muwaffaq Salti Air Base (MSAB)/Azraq.
From 2009 on the operational emphasis of the Falcon Air Meet shifted from a multinational flying and ground-handling competition into an overall large force employement (LFE)-orientated air-exercise using the vast airspace over eastern Jordan and the available multinational air-assets.
Unfortunately the Turkish Air Force had in extremis to decline its traditional participation in FAM 2009. Mid October 2009,
F-16AM Fighting Falcons of No.349/Belgian Air Component and F-16CJ Block 52 'Vipers' of 157FS/169FW South Carolina ANG would join RJAF's MSAB-based No.1 squadron, equipped with MidLifeUpdated F-16AM's.
Having all arrived a few days before the official kick-off of the FAM 2009 on 18/10, both visiting foreign squadron-contingents flew a familiarisation sortie over the exercise 'playground' over east-Jordan, ranging from the Syrian border in the north over the worldfamous Wadi-Rum area to the Saudi-border in the 'deep' south of the Kingdom.
Immediately after the official opening of the Falcon Meet 2009, attended by a large number of regional and international air force commanders, attachés and observers (incl. Royal Air Force of Oman, RAAF and RAF's ADWC at RAF Waddington), the FM2009-competition kicked-off with a 'timed' formation arrival event over the on-base viewing area.
Already two days later, after the completion of the air/air scramble and intercept competition, the first LFE was flown by a large multinational F-16 package. Similar to other large-scale exercises the complexity of the flying programma was gradually increased, both in mission-scenario as in the adversary aircraft (aka RedAir) capabilities used in these
To optimize the training value and curve of the various participants, mission command during the various LFE's was rotated between the various squadrons, offering a broad spectrum of ideas to emerge and experiences to exchange.
FAM 2009 offered all participating an high valued opportunity to fully operate their F-16 Fighting Falcon-armada in realistic tactical scenarios.
Gradually all participating aircraft were allowed to use their capabilities at their maximum during the various LFE's.
Parallel to the intense flying programme, the FAM competition also tested the skills of maintenance and armament-personnel by giving scores to individual sortie generation success.
The various nations had to compete in a missile loading competition during which groundcrew needed to install an inert AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM on two of the aircraft (wingtip) hardpoints. Once more groundcrew of the COANG supervised the competition and deducted vital competition-points for incorrect hardware-manipulations or safety hazards.
By far the most spectacular FM-event was the live air/ground bombing competition in which all participating F-16's dropped two live Mk.82 Snakeye general-purpose bombs on training targets, close to the airbase. This competition-event was integrated in a large-scale 'time-sensitive' insertion and extraction-exercise of Jordanian Special Forces, making a C-130H Hercules-borne assault landing. All pilots needed to drop their bombs within 30 seconds spacing from the preceding aircraft. Each flightlead (i.e. first pilot in the formation) of four aircraft needed to be over the target exactly two minutes after the last aircraft of the previous formation.
To keep all pilots and groundcrew 'competitive' until the end of the FAM2009 no individual and/or intermediate scores were 'declassified' before the official closing ceremony on 03/11/2009.
Eventually the USANG would become the overall-winner of the various FAM-competitions.
FALCON AIR MEET .... SOON TO BECOME DESERT FLAG ?
FAM 2009 saw for the first time the integration of full-scale large force employment missions into its flying programme and scenario.
Operating for two weeks over the vast and almost unlimited airspace of eastern Jordan, all participants were able to test and train their skills during exercise set-ups, often impossible to organise in their homeland (esp.Belgium) due to airspace congestion and unavailability. Ideally located within this enormous airspace-'bubble',
MSAB offers plenty of usable parking infrastructure and an almost unlimited willingness of its air force personnel to solve practical problems.
The natural eagerness of the RJAF-pilots to demonstrate their capabilities and their vast experience in operating with great tactical efficiency over desert terrain will make them ideal 'brothers in arms' and/or sparring-partners for all parties involved in future FAM's.
To continuously improve the high standard of flying operations during the Falcon Air Meet, various air forces -operating state of the art fighter aircraft- will be invited to participate in the LFE-missions, with the option to skip the competition events. The integration of additional 'blue air'-participants , 'red air' opponents (esp. F-15C Eagles as Su-27/30MKI simulators) and ground-based air-defence systems will make this exercise an ideal training-venue. The use of ACMI-hardware (Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation) for debriefing purposes will enhance the capabilities to analyse the various missions in all its aspects.
Supervised by the Colorado Air National Guard, the annual Falcon Air Meet may well become a cheaper and realistical alternative for Southeast European and Middle/Near East Air Forces, lacking the logistical support and financial assets to participate in large scale exercises in North America (RedFlag - Nellis AFB/USA or Maple Flag/Canada).
Note : A full-version of this Falcon Air Meet 2009, which was sent to and published by various international aviation magazines will be sent to you upon your request. Just send us an email !