Lion Effort: Air combat and in-flight refuelling

 11. 05. 2024      category: Army of the Czech Republic
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From 9 to 27 May 2024, the 21st Tactical Air Base Čáslav will host the international air exercise Lion Effort 2024 (LE24), which will be attended by 500 soldiers, including about 150 soldiers from abroad. Lion Effort is the fifth exercise of the JAS-39 Gripen operating nations, also known as the Gripen Users Group (GUG). In 2009, the Republic of Hungary hosted the exercise, the second exercise of this kind was held in 2012 in the Kingdom of Sweden, the third in 2015 in the Czech Republic, and the fourth in 2018 again in the Republic of Hungary. In 2021, this exercise was cancelled due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Foto: Letoun JAS-39 Gripen tankuje za letu | MMU PAO
Picture: JAS-39 Gripen aircraft refuelling for flight | MMU PAO

The LE24 exercise will involve Gripen aircraft from the Czech Air Force, Hungary and Sweden. Thailand will take part without airborne equipment. The Czech Air Force will also fly L-159 light attack aircraft, C-295 CASA transport aircraft, and German Eurofighter Typhoon, Polish F-16 and A-330MRTT refuelling aircraft from home base. To ensure the complexity of the scenarios, the Czech Air Force will activate the Air National Command Centre (ANCC), forward air controllers (JTACs) from the 22nd Helicopter Air Base Sedlec, Vícenice u Náměště nad Oslavou, the 25th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment Strakonice with the SURN asset as a ground air defence position will also be involved. The entire tactical control will then be under the responsibility of the Czech Control and Reporting Centre (CRC).

The flight programme of the exercise, which will take place over the weekend of 14-23 May 2024, is divided into two main blocks. In the morning, missions will be flown under a complex scenario with coordination of all trainers (COMAO - Composite Air Operations). COMAOs are operations where a large number of different types of aircraft operate together, possibly supported by ground forces, to achieve a desired military effect. The afternoon will be followed by missions (called Shadow wave) that will focus on manoeuvre air combat and direct air support. More than two dozen aircraft will thus practice tactics in advanced air combat, including in-flight refuelling, as well as practicing interoperability.

Foto: Letouny JAS-39 Gripen Vzdušných sil AČR | MMU PAO
Picture: JAS-39 Gripen aircraft of the Czech Air Force | MMU PAO

"Lion Effort is unique in several aspects. Firstly, it is the participation of the Swedish Air Force as a full member of NATO. Secondly, it is the comprehensiveness of the exercise, which the Czech Air Force has prepared for this year in the form of a combination of Lion Effort and the annual Ramstein Guard exercise, which is a high-profile exercise within the NATO air force community focused on electronic warfare and jamming training," said Colonel Michal Kudyn of the Czech Air Force Headquarters.

 In the first week, the flight crews will test their electronic warfare operations in the conditions of jamming of airborne radars, radio communication and GPS satellite navigation system. This part of the exercise will involve a specially modified FA-20 jamming aircraft from the British civilian contractor Draken Europe, as well as other experts from the Faculty of Military Technology of the University of Defence Brno, experts in global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) from the Military Geographical and Hydrometeorological Office Dobruška and specialists with ground equipment from the 53rd Regiment of Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare Opava.

"Gripens play a key role in this exercise. They will take part in scenarios aimed at practicing advanced tactics in air combat, including in jamming conditions, as well as in tasks against ground targets by providing CAS (Close Air Support) using Litening 4i targeting and reconnaissance containers. Even this short list only underscores the capabilities of the JAS-39 Gripen, which the Air Force counts on as a key element of its tactical air force for the next decade," Colonel Kudyn added.

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