The exercise known as Exercise Point Blank is a regular quarterly exercise conducted by the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force based in the UK, but for this exercise, US aircraft from other European air bases and the Royal Netherlands Air Force are also taking part.
The RAF Typhoons taking part are drawn from 3(Fighter), XI(Fighter), 29, and 41 Squadrons and are being supported by Voyager tankers. The RAF Voyagers will operate in formation to allow up to four fighters to simultaneously refuel.
Exercise Point Blank is a hugely valuable training opportunity for the RAF. It allows us to practice integrating with fighters from the UK’s closest ally and other NATO partners, going up against a range of simulated modern air and surface-air threats. The different aircraft types each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but when combined together our lethality and survivability however is greatly increased. The only way to generate this formidable allied capability is to regularly train together, developing and improving our tactics.
Squadron Leader Fordham, the RAF’s exercise coordinator based at RAF Coningsby
This exercise also sees all three of the United States Air Force European based fighter wings taking part for the first time. The UK based 48th Fighter Wing from RAF Lakenheath will be joined by F-16s from Aviano Air Base in Italy, and Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. The F-16s will be flying long range sorties supported by Air to Air Refueling from USAF KC-135 tankers based at RAF Mildenhall and so will not be landing in the UK.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force are also participating in the exercise flying F-16s and F35As from their bases in the Netherlands. In total over 50 aircraft will be committed to the exercise flying missions for four days.
Exercise Point Blank is being controlled by the Tactical Command and Control teams in Number 1 Air Control Centre at RAF Scampton, a part of the UK’s Air Surveillance and Control System, and on board a RAF E-3D Sentry from 8 Squadron RAF.
The exercise is being conducted despite the global Covid-19 Pandemic. Planning, briefing and debriefing for this exercise is being conducted entirely remotely. The necessity of doing this has therefore been turned it a training opportunity and demonstrates the considerable reach of allied air power as well as reflecting the reality of operating at range from disparate airbases which therefore reflects the likely reality of a future operation.
This exercise follows on from the recent Exercise Cobra Warrior and such exercises are designed to increase interoperability and the collective readiness of NATO allies to deter potential adversaries and ensure the skies within the European theatre remain sovereign.