ACE 2017 complete – the artic foxes return! While you good readers, our friends and family basked in the delights of an unseasonably warm May in the UK, the foxes embarked on another adventure; this time venturing north into the wilderness of the arctic circle.
Maybe wilderness is a slight exaggeration, but there were certainly areas we flew over that felt untouched. After a great effort from the engineers 7 GR4s leapt gracefully into the air to make their way up the west coast of Norway. The crews were looking forward to taking in the spectacular views on the way, but unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans. Instead they enjoyed two hours admiring the inside of a cloud – all good for those instrument hours though!! One of our engineers was lucky enough to enjoy the ride, and was treated to experiencing the 4-ship go via the tanker on the way north. After some problems with the A400 transport arrangements, the rest of the pack arrived safe and sound in Bodø later that weekend, ready for the rigours of a busy exercise.
The exercise would prove to be the perfect place for young and experienced alike to sharpen their teeth, and demonstrate to our NATO colleagues the calibre of the premier Tornado Sqn. It would be remiss of me at this point not mention our 9 Sqn stow away – Flt Lt Phil ‘Chalkers’ ‘Chalkbag’ Chalkley – who also managed to get some valuable work done towards his pairs lead work up.
The engineers had a frustrating first week, chasing multiple gremlins that were running around the HAS site causing all kinds of mischief. After lulling our NATO allies into a false sense of security that they would not have to do battle the fearsome Tornado, our engineers pulled it out of the bag and from the Thursday onwards the COMAO wave was dominated by the Fox’s Four. The aircrew would like to thank the engineers for their hard work, and of course special thanks to JEngO Dan and his keen eye for taxy distances.
During the middle weekend, there was chance for a spot of down time, with some exciting and cultural FD events being organised by our stunt GLO: Major Rob Hemmens. While the engineers sent a team to test their nerve caving in the local mountains, a team of aircrew went to visit an old trading outpost north of Bodø. Our new SEngO demonstrated his mastery at motor boating, guiding a group to see the famous maelstrom to the south of the city. There was also a chance to socialise with our other NATO colleagues, chewing the fat and learning how we each operate.
All in all, Arctic Challenge 17 was a huge success, with multiple 4s lead qualifications being gained and re-ratified, with invaluable COMAO experience for all involved. It proved to be a welcome break from our other standing commitments, and our thanks go to Sqn Ldr Holt, Flt Lt Glowczyk, Flt Lt Jenkins, and the rest of their team for the months of hard work that led up to ACE 2017. Finally, we would like to extend our thanks to our Norwegian allies who showed us exceptional hospitality throughout our stay.
Until next time – Sssssssssseya