A Brigadier, who led the first Spanish Air Force deployment of Eurofighters on Baltic Air Patrol, was a key speaker at a London Fighter Conference, where he told delegates about the crucial role the Eurofighter Typhoon was playing in protecting national interests, the value of simulation training – and the value of pre-deployment exercises.
JAVIER DEL CID DE LEON
NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency
- Fighter school as flying instructor
- Operational (Captain) at Albacete AFB flying Mirage F1
- International ops – Bosnia, Kosovo
- NATO tour at Airsouth HQ, Naples (IT)
- First SPAF Baltic Air Patrol Detachment Chief – Siauliai, Lithuania
- Air Base and Wing Commander — 14th Wing, Albacete, during the handover from Mirage F-1 to Eurofighter Sqn
NETMA’s Brigadier Javier Del Cid De Leon gave the Conference a unique insight into Eurofighter Typhoon’s role in the Baltic Air Patrol (BAP) and in the reparations required. It’s a subject he knows much about. He was the Detachment Chief of the first Spanish Air Force deployment in the region and was also the ALBACETE Air Base commander in Spain for the handover from Mirage F-1 to Eurofighter.
It’s little wonder the Brigadier could captivate his audience in London as Eurofighter WORLD can now reveal in this personal profile – the love of flying runs in his Spanish blood. And his interest in aviation began when he was just a child…
“I remember building my first model aircraft when I was a 10-year-old. After that I filled my parents’ house, and later my own home, with a vast array of radio controlled and static models. I joined the Spanish Air Force when I was 17 (in 1976) and I flew, for the first time in my life, in 1978. Even now, after 40 years and more than 4,000 flying hours, I still love to fly.”
Today, as NETMA’s Division Leader for Business Management, Javier heads three sections of the organisation, managing around 35 people. He’s in charge of HR, security, agency support, IT and business improvement and performance.
While his current role is to support the management of the NETMA business, ensuring that appropriate strategies, policies, processes, tools and resources are in place to generate the right ways of working to maximize effectiveness and motivation, his has not always been an office job.
Indeed, his active background in the Spanish Air Force, his knowledge of Baltic Air Patrols and his links with Eurofighter and NETMA all mean the Brigadier is now a natural choice as a speaker for a fighter conference.
Asked why anyone would be interested in hearing from NETMA, he said: “NETMA plays an important role sustaining Typhoon as a world class fighter.” says the Brigadier. “It is the backbone of air defence across our nations as multirole aircraft which will be in service for decades to come. NETMA provides a management service, delivering through-life support and capability enhancement to satisfy our customer’s current and future operational needs. In short, the work of NETMA contributes to a reliable and safe Eurofighter Weapons System.”
It’s exactly that reliability and built-in safety that has led to the Eurofighter Typhoon being seen as the system of choice for those requiring a robust and capable deterrent. And it is this that the Brigadier sees as its key value supporting NATO’s Air Policing in Europe.
“NATO Air Policing is important because it demonstrates a common commitment and mutual cooperation among the different nation states involved.
“The NATO definition of the role is clear. NATO Air Policing is a peacetime mission which requires an Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS), an Air Command and Control (Air C2) structure and Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) aircraft to be available on a 24/7 basis.
“This enables the Alliance to detect, track and identify to the greatest extent possible all aerial objects approaching or operating within NATO airspace so that violations and infringements can be recognised and appropriate action taken.
“The Spanish Air Force fully understands the need to collaborate in all NATO missions. The first time it took part in the Baltic Air Patrol with Eurofighter was from ALA 11-Morón Air Base. It was a logistic challenge more than an operational one.
“How suitable does he think Eurofighter Typhoon is for the BAP role?”
“There is no doubt that the Eurofighter is the best aircraft out there today for Air Policing missions like this. What you need is reliability, simplicity in the pre-take off procedures; high performance to reach operational ceiling and speed; good and reliable communication with the C2 system; and sensors that provide the >> pilot with a clear situation awareness for the purpose of identification. And, if the situation requires, reliable and efficient air-to-air weapons.
“It’s also worth making a special mention of the Eurofighter’s EJ200 engines. They provide the combination of low maintenance, high reliability and easy handling that’s essential in this work.”
“Working in the Baltic means we have been able to operate in extreme weather conditions in winter time. This is a challenge not only for the aircraft but for the entire team involved in the detachment. We are far away from our home base which is why a good logistic plan is vital.
“The Eurofighter and the crews involved have the experience. The aircraft is on duty 24/7 with our four nations covering almost all NATO area of responsibility.”
Asked what NATO and the Spanish Air Force have learned about the threats and activities during their patrol time in the Baltics, the Brigadier said: “It’s a combination of things — responsibility, interoperability, the ability to maintain high readiness status, strong Air Command and control chain. These patrols bring the same rules of engagement but in a different scenario. Of course the Baltic Patrol also means learning to work in winter weather conditions.”
And, like other air forces before them, prior to the deployment of the Spanish Air Force to the Baltics, they made use of The Aircrew Synthetic Training Aids (ASTA) programme to help prepare.
“In my view ASTA proved itself as an essential tool for complex training exercises,” says the Brigadier, “because it allowed training situations and missions to be carried out that in the real aircraft would be impossible to reproduce before deployment.
“In total 50 missions were developed for the pilots involved in the Spanish Air Force deployment. These missions, in total hours represent a time of flight of approximately 75 per cent of the actual hours flown. This is a huge saving on real flying time costs. There’s no doubt that ASTA was needed for this and will be needed for future missions.
“It really helped us. Pre-deployment simulator flying means the pilots can focus on the domestic aspects: local procedures, communications sequence, instrument approaches, familiarity with the work area, and so on.
“It also allows the deployments to arrive with much more preparation and knowledge, as crews have undergone a process of planning and implementation (documentation, calculations of time / fuel tactical assessment, data processing mission for aircraft detection doubts / errors / shortcomings, etc.), allowing them to prepare any missions in the exercise faster and more effectively.”
As the Brigadier explained when he spoke in London, it is not just the simulator training that helps pilots prepare for real-life deployment, it is major exercises like ‘Vulcanex 15’. The aim of Vulcanex 15 was to strengthen Eurofighter/Typhoon interoperability and standardisation between the *European Air Group (EAG) nations through the use of common Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). It was also to familiarise ground crews with other nation’s Aircraft Ground Equipment, with their “turn around” procedures and their different approaches to Quick Reaction Alert work.
*The European Air Group (EAG) is a seven nation (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain & UK) organisation which develops suitable ideas and initiatives into projects with the aim of producing useable end-products that promote interoperability between the Group and partner air forces (Norway & Sweden). It may also assist other organisations.
“So how proud is the Brigadier of what NETMA, the Spanish Air Force and the Eurofighter Typhoon have done with regard to Baltic Air Patrols?”
“It is mission accomplished.” he said. “We now have common goals and we are continuing to demonstrate that we have a value. In fact, in January this year, another Spanish Air Force Eurofighter detachment, this time from the ALBACETE Air Base, 14th WING will be on deployment. I wish them the best.”
Finally, we asked the Brigadier what he honestly thought the future will hold for the Eurofighter Typhoon?
“Our nations are betting on Eurofighter as the main air weapon system for the next decades. There are technical and financial solutions that will give us a fleet of Eurofighters with the operational capabilities required by the four nations.
“The Meteor, Storm Shadow, Brimstone and new radar will equip the Eurofighter with the swing role capability necessary for the future. NETMA and Eurofighter are continuing to work together to ensure we deliver the best operational aircraft both now and in the future. Of course challenges will occur, but we are committed to solving them day by day, and I am confident we will meet those challenges.” <<
source: EUROFIGHTER WORLD – Programme News & Features – March 2016