The UK’s Ambassador to Hungary has praised strong ties between the UK and NATO allies Hungary, following the Royal Air Force’s first ever deployment of a C-17 strategic transport aircraft to the country for night flying training. The 99 Squadron C-17, based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, will work with the Hungarian Air Force (HAF) to conduct night vision goggle training at Hungary’s specialist C-17 airbase, Pápa. A Saab Gripen fighter from the HAF’s 59/1 ‘Puma’ Squadron escorted the C-17 during its first day of training to welcome the RAF to Hungary.
Pápa Airbase is home to the Heavy Airlift Wing, an alliance of 12 countries that use the C-17 for long-range heavy airlift. As a dedicated C-17 base, Pápa has a number of facilities designed to train aircrew to fly the aircraft in the most demanding conditions, including night operations and assault landings. 99 Squadron’s deployment – dubbed Exercise Hungary Puma – focussed on training with night vision goggles, taking advantage of Pápa’s clear airspace and specialist lighting capabilities.
Following a C-17 flight, Gripen intercept and assault landing with VIPs from the Hungarian Ministry of Defence, HM Ambassador Iain Lindsay said:
It was fantastic to fly with the C-17 crew and to see an intercept by Gripens from the Hungarian Air Force. This is the first time we’ve seen the RAF working at Pápa; it’s a fantastic facility and I hope to see the RAF’s C-17s back here soon. There’s plenty of scope for us to see more cooperation in the future.
99 Squadron pilot Flight Lieutenant Ben Mountfield, said:
This is a fantastic opportunity for us to train at an airfield specifically designed for C-17s. It’s great to enjoy the free airspace around Pápa, which allows us to manoeuvre the aircraft to develop our tactical procedures. Our NATO allies here in Hungary have been so welcoming – they’re beyond reproach. We’re absolutely looking forward to working with them again.