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  • European Force Projection to the Pacific

    I know the French have possessions in the Pacific but as I understood it the Germans & Spanish lost their territories over 100 years ago. It is good we can include these heavy hitters in our Pacific exercises. I wonder what the way forward is for formal defense assistance?

    European Air Power Teams Up For Pacific Mega Deployment (twz.com)


    European Air Power Teams Up For Pacific Mega Deployment

    Covering some 36,000 miles, Pacific Skies 24 will see German, French, and Spanish aircraft hopscotch all over the Asia-Pacific theater.

    THOMAS NEWDICK



    CHRISTIAN TIMMIGAir forces from Germany, France, and Spain are embarking on an unprecedented exercise that will take a variety of combat aircraft to the Asia-Pacific region in a multi-legged journey that will see them work together and with other air arms. With much attention consumed by the strategic implications of the war in Ukraine, Pacific Skies 24 reiterates that the ‘pivot to Asia,’ driven above all by China’s increasingly assertive military stance, also applies to Europe’s NATO allies, at least to a degree.



    Tomorrow, assets taking part in Pacific Skies 24 are scheduled to begin leaving Europe, heading first over the Atlantic to the United States, for participation in Exercise Arctic Defender in Alaska.

    The main aircraft contingent for Pacific Skies 24 comprises eight German Eurofighters, four Spanish Eurofighters, four French Rafale fighters, 12 German Tornado strike aircraft, nine A400M transports (four German, three French, two Spanish), one Spanish A330 transport, and four German H145M helicopters. All these will be supported by around 1,800 military personnel from those three countries.




    Providing aerial refueling support will be four A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports (MRTT) from the Germany-based portion of the Multinational MRTT Fleet in Cologne and three more A330 MRTTs from France.

    For the German Luftwaffe, this is the last opportunity to expose the Tornado to an international exercise. The swing-wing jets have already arrived in Alaska to take part in low-level training before joining Arctic Defender in early July. This will be primarily an air-to-air combat exercise, including live-firing, with undisclosed U.S. military fifth-generation fighters taking part alongside the three European air forces. Time is running out now for the German Tornados, which will be replaced by F-35As in the nuclear strike role and by specially equipped Eurofighters in the electronic warfare role.


    A line-up of Luftwaffe Tornados at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. Bundeswehr/Sherifa Kästner


    A Luftwaffe Tornado involved in the low-level training in Alaska as part of Pacific Skies 24. Bundeswehr/Sherifa Kästner


    After Arctic Defender, the Pacific Skies 24 deployment will continue westward over the Pacific to Japan, to take part in another exercise, Nippon Skies. These maneuvers will see German Eurofighters train for the first time in Japanese airspace.

    Next, the German contingent will split, with some assets heading to Hawaii, for the next edition of the RIMPAC exercise, in which the German Navy is also involved.

    The rest of the German deployment will leave Japan for Australia, to engage in the storied Pitch Black exercise, alongside the French and Spanish Air Forces. The large-scale Pitch Black maneuvers are set to involve as many as 20 different types of aircraft from 20 countries.


    A Royal Australian Air Force EA-18G and a Luftwaffe Eurofighter during the Pitch Black 2022 exercise over Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin, on September 5, 2022. Bundeswehr/Christian Timmig Christian Timmig


    Finally, Pacific Skies 24 participants will head to India for the first-ever Tarang Shakti 1 exercise, billed as the Indian answer to Red Flag. Also taking part will be the Indian Air Force and the U.K. Royal Air Force. A key facet of the exercise will be the first chance for Spanish fighter pilots to conduct dissimilar air combat training with Russian-designed Su-30 Flanker fighters.

    By the time the Pacific Skies 24 deployment arrives back in Europe, slated for August 15, they will have covered around 36,000 miles and have had the chance to train in icy, desert, and tropical environments. Among the other countries in which stopovers are scheduled are Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates, among others.


    A simplified diagram showing the major flight routes and destinations for the Pacific Skies 24 deployment. Bundeswehr/Luftwaffe


    Separate from Pacific Skies 24 will be another French contingent, gathered for Griffith Strike, under which three Rafales, three A400Ms, and three A330 MRTTs will travel to Australia, via the United Arab Emirates and Singapore. They will be accompanied by a U.K. Royal Air Force detachment.

    The air forces of Germany, France, and Spain are all currently engaged in modernization efforts, driven at least in part by hikes in defense budgets that have been secured to make their militaries better able to respond to the changing security environment in Europe. This has been largely driven, of course, by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

    While Pacific Skies 24 shifts the emphasis from Europe to other operating areas, in the Asia-Pacific region, officials have noted that a Russian shadowing of some kind is expected during the transit between Alaska and Japan. Here, the aircraft will pass over the Pacific Ocean, close to Russian airspace.

    “It is envisaged that Russian aircraft will approach and intercept us,” said Lt. Gen. Francisco González-Espresati, the chief of Spanish Air Combat Command. “We’re pretty sure they will, but we’re not worried about it.”

    With all three air forces bringing A400Ms and Germany and Spain both operating Eurofighters, the aim is to share maintenance requirements across these fleets as much as is possible, to reduce the logistical footprint. The German and Spanish contingents will leave together from Cologne, further increasing synergies between them.


    A Spanish Air Force Eurofighter wearing the Pacific Skies 24 insignia on its tail fin. Airbus


    Stressing the need to practice the rapid movement of aircraft and personnel, as much as possible of the required spares and other logistics supplies will be carried onboard the aircraft taking part, instead of being pre-positioned. For the French contingent, all the necessary materiel will be taken by its A400Ms and A330 MRTTs.

    Another interesting aspect of the deployment is the use of a specially equipped French Air and Space Force A330 MRTT, outfitted as a communications relay platform. This will maintain contact with the French Pacific Skies 24 headquarters on the ground in Lyon, France, via satellite link. The expansion of the tanker-transport’s mission set is something that France has been working on for some time and parallels similar efforts involving the U.S. Air Force’s KC-135 Stratotanker fleet.

    The French component also includes a single A400M that will provide search-and-rescue support for the duration of the deployment, responding to any emergencies should they arise. This also reflects the expanding mission portfolio for the turboprop transport, a process that has taken a considerable time.


    A French Air and Space Force A400M over the Pacific. French Air and Space Force


    By the end of Pacific Skies 24, the objective is for the three European air forces to have sharpened their skills but, more importantly, to enhance their cooperation with allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

    “By participating in Pacific Skies 24, we as Europeans are showing presence in a part of the world that is of great importance to all of us,” said Luftwaffe Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz.


    Eurofighters from the Luftwaffe refueling from an A330 MRTT of the Multinational MRTT Fleet for the Rapid Pacific 2022 exercise. Bundeswehr/Christian Timmig Christian Timmig


    By demonstrating their air power and commitment to the region, Pacific Skies 24 reinforces the fact that Germany, France, and Spain also have an eye on the strategic picture in the Asia-Pacific region, where the U.S. military and local allies are increasingly adapting their postures and their tactics to face a potential future conflict involving China.

    For NATO air forces in Europe, many of which have been hollowed out following post-Cold War defense cuts, and which are only starting to reverse those trends, on a piecemeal basis, a large-scale commitment to a potential future war in the Asia-Pacific theater is questionable. However, it’s significant, even if only in terms of signaling, that the German, French, and Spanish Air Forces are all being mobilized now to not only improve their interoperability with Asia-Pacific allies but also to demonstrate Europe’s strategic ability to deploy a range of aviation assets over significant distances to respond to geopolitical contingencies.
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain

  • #2
    I guess its a case of 'showing the flag' or perhaps more realistically these days 'maintaining relevancy' but apart from exercises like Pitch Black or RIMPAC where pilots, flight and ground crews gain much needed high intensity experience against and along side peer air forces? You have to think that mostly NATO's European members would be better off staying closer to home where they are really needed (well IMO anyway).
    If you are emotionally invested in 'believing' something is true you have lost the ability to tell if it is true.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Monash View Post
      I guess its a case of 'showing the flag' or perhaps more realistically these days 'maintaining relevancy' but apart from exercises like Pitch Black or RIMPAC where pilots, flight and ground crews gain much needed high intensity experience against and along side peer air forces? You have to think that mostly NATO's European members would be better off staying closer to home where they are really needed (well IMO anyway).
      On the opposite side of the coin this does give them the opportunity to train in less restricted airspace against a near peer force. That helps regardless. Force projection is still a key component of the French defense capability (look at all their deployments to Africa). For Germany and Spain it gives them elbow room to try things out they may not be able to back in Europe.

      But I get your point.
      “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
      Mark Twain

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post

        On the opposite side of the coin this does give them the opportunity to train in less restricted airspace against a near peer force. That helps regardless. Force projection is still a key component of the French defense capability (look at all their deployments to Africa). For Germany and Spain it gives them elbow room to try things out they may not be able to back in Europe.

        But I get your point.
        Yes, that's why I mentioned Pitch Black etc. I've often thought Australia could make some bucks and boost the economy up North by 'renting' out airspace, airbases and firing ranges to allied nations air forces for training purposes. Make Darwin a giant training hub for who ever wants to pitch in and help fund it. We have air space available for training that most nations except Russia and perhaps Canada can only dream of.
        Last edited by Monash; 02 Jul 24,, 01:44.
        If you are emotionally invested in 'believing' something is true you have lost the ability to tell if it is true.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Monash View Post
          I guess its a case of 'showing the flag' or perhaps more realistically these days 'maintaining relevancy' but apart from exercises like Pitch Black or RIMPAC where pilots, flight and ground crews gain much needed high intensity experience against and along side peer air forces? You have to think that mostly NATO's European members would be better off staying closer to home where they are really needed (well IMO anyway).
          The article actually omits some major stuff due to its focus on the air force.

          For the Navy:
          • Italy's Cavour light carrier strike group deployed towards the Pacific earlier this month. Its escort group is fairly light and augmented with allied ships as per opportunity. They're currently in Singapore.
          • individual ships
            • German F125 frigate Baden-Württemberg (escorted by an AOR) is doing a 16-month-away-from-home around-the-world tour, currently in the Pacific. Will mostly hang around North Korea and Japan coming months.
            • France has FREMM frigate Bretagne on a Pacific deployment going west-to-east. The ship did exercises in India, the Philippines and Japan so far.
            • Italy just started PPA patrol destroyer Raimondo Montecuccoli on a 5-month around-the-world tour this month. Will go to South China Sea in coming months.
            • Dutch AAW frigate Tromp spent the last couple weeks in Korean waters doing embargo patrol against North Korea.
          The above individual ships are currently all meeting up in Pearl Harbour (German ships arrived yesterday) and taking part in RIMPAC. All four ships are modern-destroyer-sized at 6000t+ displacement.

          The light carrier group is instead taking part in Pitch Black (there was some possibly intentional confusion about a RIMPAC participation...), then after that moving to Japan for exercises with the JMSDF. The carrier has both F-35B and Harriers onboard.

          France with "JDA24" also previously sent Mistral class helicopter carrier Tonnerre and patrol frigate Guepratte on a circumnavigation of South America with exercises in the Eastern Pacific with Chile and Peru in April and May this year. They were finishing up that tour with exercises with Colombia, the USN and in French waters in the Carribean this month.

          For locally stationed assets French patrol frigate Vendemiaire did a South China Sea tour in April with port calls and exercises (including with the USN) in Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. Continued on to Brunei and Australia in May before returning to her homeport in New Caledonia.

          Meanwhile the UK continues to embarass itself by having the similarly multi-month pacific-deployed patrol corvette HMS Spey break down in Japan.

          Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
          I know the French have possessions in the Pacific but as I understood it the Germans & Spanish lost their territories over 100 years ago. It is good we can include these heavy hitters in our Pacific exercises. I wonder what the way forward is for formal defense assistance?
          For the described air force deployment the part in Alaska is actually the big training opportunity. After that close to half the group heads back to Europe, a small contingent (~4 aircraft) does Japan and RIMPAC and only the rest goes to Pitch Black.

          The Tarang Shakti exercise in India in the map is more of an "opportunity" thing and will only be taken part in if the group isn't late in their move back from Australia.

          Both Germany and France are using these kind of exercise combinations to both show off and train "global reach". It's not quite on scale with them sending Eurofighters to the Pacific in non-stop flights last year in that regard, but a bit more focused on actual training aspects.


          For Air Forces, the article also omits the separate Italian deployment to Pitch Black and previously to Red Flag exercises in Alaska earlier this month. They're kinda not overlapping this with the others and unlike them also not combining the deployments. Also, unlike France and Germany, the way they're doing this (with multiple stopovers and with SAR aircraft doing patrols during the cross-Atlantic leg...) somewhat shows that they're both less experienced and less capable for this kind of thing. The last time Italy did a comparable long-range deployment was apparently in 2010.

          Alaska saw 6 Italian F-35A and 6 Eurofighters with a KC-767A tanker and a E-550A AEW aircraft, with multiple C-130Js and a P-72A MPA deployed for SAR and cargo roles for the transfer.

          Haven't seen any lineup for Pitch Black for Italy yet, although it'll likely be somewhat smaller - possibly just a few F-35A, maybe F-35B and a KC-767.
          Last edited by kato; 28 Jun 24,, 13:12.

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          • #6
            Thanks Monash & Kato. All great information. It is just interesting to see the comments from some European allies about being part of a coalition against Chinese hegemony and back it up with use of national security resources.
            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
            Mark Twain

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            • #7
              Right now is the first time ever German combat ships are visiting Pearl Harbour btw.

              The only previous postwar visit was by sail training ship Gorch Fock in 1987. All other port visits went to Honolulu instead of the naval base.

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