TLP 2006-06

Florennes, Belgium


 In order to keep NATO's still sizable air fleets effective in working together, it needs maintanance, just like the aircraft themselves. The maintanance in the case of the Tactical Leadership Programme takes the shape of teaching individual aircrew from a multitude of nations and their various cultures the art of working together using a variety of aircraft types. The TLP course dates back to the late 1970īs and has been at Florennes near Dinant, Belgium since 1989. TLP is in fact a combination of theoretical classes interspersed with actual flying exercises. During the course of a month or so, the exercise scenario gets progressively more complicated. These images were shot on 30 November, one of the closing days of this course.

2006īs last TLP started on Monday, 6 November 2006 and lasted through Friday, 1 December 2006. Aircraft participating can roughly be devided into three catagories; Participating Air to Ground, Participating Air to Air and External Asset. The latter are actually " sparring partners" for the students. The externals only arrive about halfway through a course. TLP 2006-6's ground attack participants consisted of the "usual suspects", these being RAF Tornado GR.4 and French Air Force Mirage 2000D, regulars for many a TLP course. The US Air Force in Europe's 52 Fighter Wing from Spangdahlem needed to benefit from TLP instructing as well.

Italy's Tornado ECR force form an important SEAD (Suppresion of Enemy Air Defences) asset and some of its aircraft formed part of this course's Ground Attack participants. A total of five Tornado ECR's had rotated through Florennes, with two or three present at anyone time. This day however, only one flew.
The RAF's Tornado GR.4 detachment was made up of two jets from both RAF Lossiemouth's 15(R) sq and RAF Marham's 31 sq. This is 31 sq's contribution to TLP 2006-06. The British Tornados were in a general ground attack configuration. The exercise scenario foresaw them being supported against hostile surface to air systems by their Italian counterparts. 

Similarly tasked as the RAF Tornados were the French Mirage 2000D's. A pair of these most advanced French ground attack jet made their way to Florennes and were to stay in Belgium for the duration of the course.They were the only French attackers during this course.


Perhaps making their last TLP appearance because of their impending retirement during 2007 were the British Jaguar GR.3A's Yet, four aircraft were present for the duration of the exercise. The Jags were flown by the final squadron to operate these Anglo-Frenc aircraft, No. 6 sq at RAF Coningsby. 6 sq will switch to the Typhoon F.2 starting in 2007.

The air to air participants were a mixed bag of types as well, including some RAF Tornado F.3's. The number of these aircraft at Florennes fluctuated between two and three. In all cases, they wore the unit badges of No. 43 sq from RAF Leuchars. One of the pair to fly during 30 November is seen here on finals to Florennes. It is easily forgotten that this interceptor is also on the verge of retirement in favour of the Typhoon F.2


Old, but still going strong, albeit with lots and lots of smoke; the German F-4F Phantom. The type is destined to soldier on until 2012 and during this period its crews will still require the advanced tuition TLP offers.


Italy participated in the Air to Air portion of this TLP course as well. Its air force used to have a widely varying collection of air defenders only two years ago when existing F-104 Starfighters and Tornado F.3's were being joined by Typhoons and F-16's like this one. Since then, the F-104's and the Tornado F.3's retired and only the F-16's and Typhoons remain. Being leased aircraft, F-16's operated without any squadron markings for some time, but nowadays 5° Stormo's Veltro insignia is starting to appear on the aircraft's fins.


Now for the externals, starting with Florennes own 2 Wing F-16's. The externals are to provide a force of air defenders which have to prevent the ground attackers from reaching their objectives and have to battle it out with the course participants specialised in air defence. This varying number of jets provided by 2 Wing is represented here by this F-16BM, one of the oldest still in existence and dating back to 1978. 


The other part of the external air defenders was made up of Mirage 2000RDI's from the french Armee de l'air. In particular, EC5 from Orange was to be the provider of the pair of these Mirages. In the near future, EC 5 is to loose some of its Mirages to Brazil.


Flight Refuelling Aviation from Bournemouth-Hurn was again tasked to provide ECM support during the final week of the exercise. A single example of their Falcon 20 was deployed to Florennes for this purpose. Note the various underwing stores with this aircraft.

TLP aimes to provide realistic training to aircrew and does so by confronting its students with situations not normally seen at home during day to day training. It has done so with some success, since 1989 at Florennes and before that in Germany at Jever.

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink