By Sascha Jussen and Piet Luijken
Photo: Piet Luijken
Photo: Jaap Dijkstra
Photo: Frank Noort
Photo: Arnold ten Pas
Photo: Jaco Haasnoot
Having regarded the "basics" of the TLP in the previous chapters, we now have a look at what probably most aircraft enthusiasts associate to the title "TLP": the TLP missions. Of the 9 missions scheduled during each TLP course, the first one usually takes place on the Saturday of week 1, or the Monday of week 2, while the last mission should be conducted on the Thursday of week 3. The TLP staff act as the tasking agency for all sorties. They provide intelligence scenarios and establish mission objectives.
A typical flying day begins at 1000LT hours with a weather briefing followed by an intelligence briefing, for which either the AG (air to ground) and opposing AD (air defence) players are split. AG participants are then briefed on the target of the day and the package leader is nominated. Meanwhile, the AD crews are roughly briefed on the expected threat, their Fighter Area of Responsibility (FAOR) and the current Airspace Control Order (ACO) in force, which may, of course, change.
Planning time for the AG participants is at a premium, with only some two hours available, and all planning (tactics, aircraft positions, routes) being carefully monitored by the TLP staff. This means that the packages' priorities have to be established, tasks defined and allocated, especially since Electronic Warfare, Airborne Early Warning and Controlling and Fighter Escort may have to be incorporated into the plan.
For the Air Defenders, however, time is not always so critical, since the detailed mission scenario brief may not be given until just prior to walk, and the task may be allocated while at cockpit readiness. The interim time, therefore, affords the AD participants to discuss tactics, Rules of Engagement (ROE), and further improve their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Departures of participating aircraft normally take place around 1500LT. A typical mission may last for 1hr 40 mins from take-off to landing, but sorties could last between 80 and 120 minutes. For non-AAR missions, TLP attempts to adjust mission profiles to match the combat radius of participating aircraft. Nevertheless, airspace limitations often result in Lo-Lo-Lo missions of 1hr 30mins and Hi-Lo-Hi/Hi-Lo-Lo missions of up to 2 hrs, including evasions and/or engagements. However, two or three long-range missions are scheduled during each flying course involving air-to-air refuelling. This procedure enables enroute-times of up to three hours.
During missions, TLP participants use call-signs in the range of "Iglu 11" to "Iglu 49" for communication with ATC plus various national-related tactical call-signs for communication between each other (e.g. "Pastis", "Tuborg" or "Vegas"). Aircrew operating in the air-to-ground role use call-signs ranging from "Iglu 11" to "Iglu 39", while "Iglu 41" to "Iglu 49" is used for air-defence aircraft. External assets use call-signs in the range of "Iglu 51" to "Iglu 69". Participating aircraft not involved in TLP mission (e.g. test-flights or DACT-sorties) have been experienced operating with call-signs in the "Iglu 70" range.
Available targets of TLP packages range from army training areas, major airfields, barracks, supply depots and even naval vessels. These targets are frequently protected by specially arranged SAM-/AAA-batteries and manned by video teams who record the attack. The inclusion of recce assets in the package allows the leader of the day the flexibility to employ Recce Attack Interface (RAI), if deemed necessary. While no live/practice weapons are employed, the use of ECM-equipment, and the dispensing of Chaff and Flares over the sea, is strongly encouraged.
Post mission analysis is one of the prime tasks of the TLP staff. All films/tapes and data from the Air Combat Measurement Instrumentation (ACMI) pods carried on participating aircraft are carefully assessed so that target Desired Mean Points of Impact (DMPIs), SAM/AAA claims and air-to-air shots can be determined and validated. The package leader conducts a sortie debrief where all the main aspects of the mission are discussed. Finally, at around 19.00 hours, the TLP staff piece together all the mission results for presentation at a main debrief, which lasts approximately one hour.
Since TLP flying courses do not have students, only participants, no school solutions are offered, but lessons learnt are highlighted. Crews obtain valuable information from such detailed mission analysis, and profit considerably from the cross fertilisation and flow of tactical knowledge and experience, the equal of which is not readily available at their home-bases. The flying day closes at around 2000LT for further discussions on tactics and social communication to take place at the aircrew bar.
Despite peacetime restrictions, the TLP flying courses continue to provide some of the best tactical training available to flying personnel of NATO's Allied Air Forces. These courses need to be well supported and it's attendance need given high priority by headquarters' staff and flying units alike. The TLP flying courses provide the ideal vehicles to promote the concepts and execution of large and mixed force packaging and to develop knowledge and leadership skills, necessary for today's typical tactical environment within a gobalised world.
Generic Mission Setup based on TLP 2008-1:
|Date||Mission type||Area||Start Time||End Time|
|Friday||Red v Blue Opposing||UK||1230LT||1530LT|
|Monday||Counter Surprise||UK or FR||1230LT||1530LT|
|Tuesday||Joint Munitions Effectiveness Manuals||UK or FR||1230LT||1530LT|
|Wednesday||Time-Sensitive Targetting & Strike Control And Reconnaissance & AAR||UK||1230LT||1530LT|
|Thursday||WX slip day|
|Friday||Slow Moving targets||UK||1230LT||1530LT|
|Monday||Time-Sensitive Targetting & Strike Control And Reconnaissance||UK or FR||1230LT||1530LT|
|Tuesday||Threat Feedback & AAR||UK||1230LT||1530LT|
|Wednesday||Academical day - subject ASuW|
|Thursday||Anti Surface Warfare & AAR||UK||1230LT||1530LT|
|Monday||Academical day - subject CSAR|
|Tuesday||Combat Search And Rescue||FR/BE||1230LT||1530LT|