Eurofighters in first joint exercise

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Spanish and UK services combine forces as 'Lone Eider' demonstrates air defence capabilities of new squadrons

Eurofighter Typhoons from the Spanish and UK Royal Air Forces have taken part in the first joint exercise involving the type, which will begin delivering air defence services to both NATO nations within the next few months.

Conducted from Spain's Morón airbase near Seville from 20-27 April, exercise "Lone Eider" saw the partners conduct defensive and offensive counter-air operations, culminating with complex missions flown against Spanish air force Boeing F/A-18 and Dassault Mirage F1 strike aircraft and Spanish navy Boeing AV-8B Harrier II fighters.

The RAF deployment - its largest and longest-range detachment of the Typhoon to date - comprised six F2 fighters and one T1 trainer, plus more than 110 personnel and 13 pilots from 3 Sqn at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. The aircraft made a 2h transit flight to Morón on 18 April in a new ferry configuration with three external fuel tanks.

The exercise was expected to include around 75 Eurofighter sorties, said Maj Manuel de la Chica, commanding officer of the Spanish air force's 111 Sqn, which began operations with the Eurofighter in May 2006.

RAF aircraft were planned to log around 44 sorties and 130 flight hours during the exercise, according to detachment commander Sqn Ldr Jez Attridge. "The exchange will enable us to share experiences and look at the Eurofighter's common employment procedures, techniques and air-to-air tactics," he said.

The Lone Eider deployment was the last major milestone to be cleared by 3 Sqn before the unit can deliver quick-reaction alert cover for the southern UK from July. It was also the largest test so far for Spain's 111 Sqn, which will reach initial operating capability before the end of the year and deliver air defence services from January 2008.

The unit deployed several aircraft to the Canary Islands in February and is expected to conduct a return exercise in the UK later this year.

Spain's two Eurofighter squadrons - which include the 113 Sqn operational conversion unit at Morón - have amassed over 2,500 flight hours on the type, with Madrid having received 17 aircraft, including two currently undergoing retrofit. Its air force will eventually have two frontline Eurofighter squadrons each at Morón and Albacete airbase, with each to comprise 18 aircraft and 21 pilots, plus a 14-strong OCU.

Spain's first three ab initio pilots began training with 113 Sqn last January and will complete conversion training on the Eurofighter around July before becoming fully combat-ready with 111 Sqn towards the end of next year.


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Around 75 Eurofighter sorties were planned to compare air-to-air tactics