IN JANUARY 1978, the Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE) staged its first Tactical Leadership Programme (HP) course at Fiirstenfeldbruck AB, Germany, after Air Force leaders recognised a need to improve their pilots’ leadership skills in multi-national air operations. Responding to that requirement, six nations — Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the United States — signed a Memorandum of Understanding to participate in the programme.
Bidding for Slots
A course schedule for the following year is formulated at a meeting between all potential participants from MOU and non-MOU nations every August. Each nation bids for slots on any of the six courses staged each year: the schedule includes a deployed flying course (DFC). TLP staff must allocate slots in such away that the mix of assets is balanced between air defence and the various air-to-ground missions. Achieving this balance is tricky, due to a variety of factors, not least the operational tempo of individual units and nations. Nevertheless, each TLP course offers a diverse selection of assets from different nations which allow the crews to work with each other in combined operations.
The tactical leadership programme is managed by three operational branches: Academic; Concepts and Doctrine; and Flying.
Each branch runs specific courses on air warfare.
Courses on threat doctrine and tactics, weapons and weapons effects, aircraft performance, surface-to-air missiles/anti-aircraft artillery capabilities, battle staff management, offensive and defensive air operations are the responsibility of the academic branch.
Developing concepts for integrated operations, employment and deployment of conventional combat forces and weapon systems is carried out by the concepts and doctrine branch. It aims to improve tactical employment and cohesion between the participating air arms and makes recommendations on future requirements.
All flight operations are run by the flying branch. Staffed by experienced aircrew from the member nations, it comprises two sections — air-to-ground and air-to-air. They are responsible for co-ordinating the mission scenarios, briefing and debriefing the participants, assessing the results and highlighting the lessons learned.
Scenarios incorporate as many issues as possible, including those identified by aircrew with experience of real operations. Scenarios are changed midcourse, depending on the capabilities of the students, on how well they are doing, and on the weather conditions. Staff mix and match scenarios to match the perceived future threats. During the recent TLP at Kinloss, which took place in January, Col Johan ‘Vos’ Steyaert, Belgian Air Comp and TLP Commandant, told AFM: «Next week a new and completely different conflict might have arisen, so we do not focus on an ongoing conflict and fly nothing but that type of mission.»
The Flying Course
Six four-week flying courses are held annually, with up to 24 aircraft and crews taking part in each one.
Units normally deploy to Florennes with two aircraft, crews and up to 30 engineering personnel.
The flying course presents TLP students with a series of 15 sorties, each with a different scenario. The latter cover all aspects of modern air warfare, are challenging, and aim to trigger the imagination of the participants into finding the best way of employing the differing aircraft capabilities to full effect in a multi-national COMAO.
Students are tasked with situations they would not normally encounter as part of routine training missions at their home stations, and which require the exchange of information on weapons, tactics and capabilities. To keep abreast with developments around the world, new scenarios are developed and tested on each course.
TLP missions are flown in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK to provide a variety of terrain, a mix of targets, and to spread the burden of noise between the signatory nations.
Once a year, night flying — not allowed at Florennes — is included in the deployed flying course
(DFC). This presents the challenge of planning and operating during the hours of darkness, and the different experience of flying in night-time COMAO. Col Steyaert told AFM: «When we deploy, we benefit from less congested airspace and simultaneously undertake one week of night flying.»
Nations bid each year to host the DFC. This January’s DFC was held at RAF Kinloss, Moray, in Scotland, offered by the UK MoD primarily because the Air Warfare Centre has a facility there.
Kinloss hosted 25 aircraft for DFC: 18 were assigned to Blue Air, which included some two-seaters (Mirage 2000s and Tornados); six were assigned to Red Air. In all, around 35 aircrew took part, along with intelligence officers and student GCI controllers.
Hosting TLP at Florennes brings two inherent operating issues. The base’s location in southern Belgium means that it is in an area saturated with air traffic. By 2012, the daily volume is expected to double. As a result, it is increasingly difficult for the military to use areas of airspace sufficiently large enough to achieve TLP’s training objectives.
As well as the congested airspace, certain types of TLP sorties are also hampered by the weather encountered in the area, especially in winter. However, change is on the way. In the summer of 2009, TLP will move from Florennes to Albacete AB in Spain, where there is little restriction on airspace or very much in the way of inclement weather. The Spanish base has a further advantage — night flying is allowed, so all six of the annual flying courses will take place at Albacete. Consequently, there will be no need for any further deployed flying courses, such as the one at Kinloss. This year’s DFC is likely to have been the last in the UK.
Since the first TLP course was held at Furstenfeldbruck AB in January 1978, the programme has evolved significantly.
•In September 1979, it moved to Jever AB in Northern Germany. Each course was extended to four weeks and included a flying phase.
•During its 20-year tenure at Jever, the TLP completed 71 flying courses, from which nearly 2,000 aircrew graduated.
•The programme moved to its current location at Florennes AB, Belgium, in March 1989.
•At Florennes, two new branches were added to the TLP organisation: one for academic work and one for concepts and doctrine.
•Further nations have since signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) — Denmark and Italy in January 1996, and Spain in 2002.
• Canada withdrew from TLP in 1997, but continues to send officers to the academic courses and, occasionally, to the flying course.
•In January 2002, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) became a party to TLP. Consequently, the programme is now known as Allied Command Operations Tactical Leadership Programme (ACO TLP)
•In 2008, Poland (a non-MOU nation) has asked to take part in TLP.
Aircrew participate in TLP to improve:
•Leadership skills and capability as a front line mission commander.
•Interoperability of NATO Air Forces.
•To evaluate new employment concepts.
Each day, TLP staff create the scenario for the following day’s sortie, taking account of weather and available airspace. This is formulated in the TTO (TLP Tasking Order), in the same way as a standard NATO air tasking order. At 07:30, students arrive at the TLP building. They are given weather and intelligence briefs, and the TTO, providing a complete picture of the day’s scenario. Crews have less than four hours — from receiving the TTO to when they step out to the jet — in which to plan the mission. «They have to digest the problem, and somehow get all players to come to a coherent solution, brief that solution, build a mission plan and get out of the door,» said Lt Col Paul Matier, United States Air Forces Europe and TLP flying branch chief.
Each of the 15 structured missions becomes progressively harder, having been designed to develop tactical leadership and the skills needed to plan, brief, fly and debrief a sortie. A different mission leader is nominated for each sortie.
During the DFC at RAF Kinloss, other aircraft, such as E-3 AWACS and air-refuelling tankers, were used to support the strike package.
Ori the ground, forward air controllers were used to call in air strikes, and personnel at RAF Spadeadam, Northumbria, used simulated missiles to try to shoot down aircraft in the Blue Air strike package.
On return to Kinloss, all data from air combat manoeuvring instrumentation pods was loaded into a tracking system so that TLP staff could play back and analyse the execution of the plan during the main debrief. The day finishes at 19:30 each evening.
Within the portfolio of courses run by TLP, the three primary roles covered are composite air operations (COMAO), air defence and electronic warfare.
-Composite Air Operations (COMAO) allows aircrew to include various attack and support components in a strike package. Participants are expected to plan tactics which best consider the capabilities and limitations of each of the individual aircraft types and weapon systems at TLP. The mission leader must communicate the plan to each component of the strike package, and brief and debrief the mission.
-Courses in air defence studies are designed to enhance understanding and interoperability between air defence fighters, surface-to-air-missiles and Command and Control. The course emphasises capabilities and deficiencies in air defence.
-Electronic Warfare is taught at foundation level to give aircrew a basic understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum and the best way to exploit it in joint air operations. The course covers electronic support measures, electronic counter measures and electronic protection measures.