TLP 2007-02

Florennes, Belgium


2007 sees the continuation of NATO's Tactical Leadership Programme at Florennes Air Base, Belgium. This airfield, situated in the southern part of the country, will however see the transfer of this regular exercise to the Spanish base of Albacete during 2009 at the latest. 

The second TLP of 2007 started early in March. The first of the series this year had included RAF Typhoons and French Rafales and thus enjoyed very modern participants. It was however plagued by bad weather for the most part. TLP 2007-02 was luckier in this respect with many perfect days for flying and of course photography by the many enthousiast flocking around the base on several days. The images in this report were shot on March 28. 

The USAFE participated once again with a trio of F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath. These jets participated as students in the precision air to ground role.


Similarly tasked were the French Air Force Mirage 2000D. At least four were seen to take part as air to ground students, the jets belonging to Nancy's Escadre de Chasse 3. One of the wing's aircraft can be seen here taking off for its mission on 28 March, afterburner blazing. Note the PDLCT laser targeting pod.

The German Luftwaffe's JBG 33 from Büchel deployed a pair of Tornado IDS fighter bombers, its crews, like their colleagues in the F-15E and Mirage 2000D, requiring training in the air to ground role. JBG 33 is one of the two wings remaining in the Luftwaffe flying this variant following the disbandment of JBG 38 at Jever and JBG 34 at Memmingen.The wing specializes in the employment of the Taurus cruise missile.

Although not as sophisticated as the Mirage 2000D, the older Mirage F.1CT is still considered in the air to ground role relevant by the French Air Force. This example is flown by the famous Normandie-Niemen squadron EC 2/30 from Colmar-Meyenheim in eastern France. A trio of these former air defence fighters had been sent by EC 30 their pilots flying as as air to ground students.

The only reconnaisance configured aircraft in TLP 2007-02 were the French Mirage F.1CR's. This one from ER 2/33 is one of a trio detached by parent ER 33 wing from Reims-Champagne to nearby Florennes.The F.1CR has an important secondary attack tasking, hence the type's participation as ground attackers 

NATO's new member states from the former Warsaw Pact have also discovered the importance of the TLP. So far only the Czech Republic has actually taken part however. The Czech Air Force had already taken part in TLP 2006-04 during June and July 2006. Like last year, the Czech's had sent Aero L.159 ALCA's belonging to from Časlav. Possibly, their new SAAB JAS-39 Gripens will appear during one of the next courses.

Multi role aircraft like the F-16 and F-18 Hornet were much in evidence. F-16's during TLP 2007-02 came from the United Staes, Italy and Greece. The USAFE's F-16C detachment (above left) consisted of three jets from the 22 FS from Spangdahlem as air to ground participants. Both the Italian F-16A's (above centre) from Trapani's 37 Stormo and the Greek F-16C's (above right) from 347 Mira at Araxos flew in the air to air role. The Italians did not participate in the training course itself, but were so called externals, providing opposition to the participants, whilst the Greek F-16C's included both air to air course participants as well as externals.

Of note as well were the Spanish EF-18A Hornets. No fewer than six Hornets had been present at Florennes as air to ground participants, albeit not at the same time. They did however come from two of the Spanish Air Force wings flyiing the type, Ala 46 from Gando, Gran Canaria and as seen left from Zaragoza's Ala 15. 

Two RAF Tornado F.3 squadrons deployed aircraft to TLP 2007-02. No. 43 sq from RAF Leuchars, Fife, included its 90th anniversary bird seen above left. 28 March saw the arrival of Tornado F.3 serialled  ZE203/GA not seen before during TLP 2007-02. The other Tornado F.3 squadron, participating in the air to air role as well, was No. 25 sq from RAF Leeming, Yorks. One of the squadrons jets can be seen thundering away above right.

A rare but welcome external asset during TLP 2007-02 was the Spanish Air Force's Dassault Falcon 20E. This grey coloured example is part of 472 Esc's line up of Electronic Counter Measure (ECM) aircraft, based at Torrejon. 

In an era of shrinking air forces and continuous operations in crisis areas around the world, Florennes and the TLP provide an often fascinating destination for the avid aviation photographer. It is not uncommon to see up to 30 aircraft of different types and origins taking off for their missions.

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink