Trial Mace XIV, held at RAF Spadeadam, was the first to be hosted by the UK, and RAF Leeming’s role in hosting some of Europe’s top fighter pilots was significant.
The exercise is the latest in a series of initiatives which have been run by NATO countries on an ad hoc basis since being initiated in 1978.
The first trials were conducted purely for the development of ‘chaff’ - a technique that was originally developed during the Second World War to decoy radar systems and effectively ‘mask’ aircraft.
Since then, electronic warfare has progressed significantly thanks to technological advancements, and subsequent Trial Maces have been developed to meet new challenges.
Squadron Leader Paul Sanders, Large Aircraft Trials Management Officer of the Air Platform Protection, Test and Evaluation Squadron at RAF Waddington, was one of the Trial Mace XIV organisers. He said:
Every nationality comes with its own testing agenda. Some have new equipment and some have new techniques so it’s varied.
The trial itself involved personnel from Belgium, Austria, Canada, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Italy and the US, to name but a few. RAF Leeming hosted around 50 Turkish and 30 Polish personnel, along with a total of five F-16 jets. As a station with a fast jet background, RAF Leeming was delighted to help with such important trials.
Wing Commander Fin Monahan, Officer Commanding Operations Wing, said:
RAF Leeming is ideally situated for supporting a wide range of exercises.
This year has been particularly busy with the station supporting various helicopter exercises in preparation for Afghanistan operations, providing large scale transport and parachute exercises, and also providing a location for the Korean display team to prepare its aircraft and pilots for award-winning displays in the UK.
Notably, the station also played a major role in preparing for the air defence of the Olympics. It was, therefore, an obvious location for hosting Trial Mace and the personnel on the station took great pride in providing a base for both the Polish and Turkish F-16 operations.
Squadron Leader Sanders was delighted with the support provided to his team:
The support from RAF Leeming has been fantastic. Without it the NATO fast jet aircraft flying during Trial Mace would not have gained such benefits.
Its relatively close proximity to RAF Spadeadam and the direct contribution of RAF Leeming personnel at all levels made it ideally suited to support such detachments.