Royal Air Force (RAF)-operated Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s and Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning IIs recently joined forces with Dassault Rafale B/C (F3-R) multi-role fighters from the French Air and Space Force (FASF) to respond to a simulated air threat during Exercise Griffin Dawn.
As part of the exercise, the British and French fighters met over the North Sea to practice a coordinated response to a potential threat from an adversary aircraft operating in or near home airspace. While an unspecified number of British Typhoons and F-35Bs were joined by French Rafales to essentially form a ‘Blue Air’ force – with air-to-air refuelling support provided by a FASF-operated Airbus A330-243MRTT Phénix multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) – the part of the potential ‘Red Air’ threat was played by additional RAF Eurofighters.
Exercise Griffin Dawn successfully tested the effectiveness of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (C-JEF), which is an Anglo-French partnership that commits both nations to being able to deploy a significant number of air-, land- and sea-based capabilities with more than 10,000 personnel for a variety of taskings that include peacekeeping, bilateral defence or the provision of humanitarian aid.
While designed to be a challenging exercise for airborne assets and their respective crews, this exercise also provided an opportunity for the C-JEF to train its command and control (C2) capabilities. During the exercise, RAF personnel joined their French counterparts at the Centre Air de Planification et de Conduite des Opérations (CAPCO; Air Operations Planning and Conduct Centre) near Lyon, from which they coordinated with the RAF’s No 11 Group Joint Force Air Component – the UK’s equivalent to CAPCO – at RAF High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, to provide C2 to the air assets involved in Griffin Dawn.
Commenting on the exercise from the UK’s perspective, AVM Phil Robinson – the air officer commanding No 11 Group RAF – said: “The Combined Joint Expeditionary Force is a vital military partnership between the UK and France. This week I have witnessed the UK Air Component integrate seamlessly with our French Air and Space Force colleagues, demonstrating our interoperability and enhancing our Air Command and Control.”
Lt Col Jean-Christophe – the deputy chief of staff for CAPCO – concluded: “Through Griffin Dawn we have verified the interoperability between the assets of our two air forces, especially with data sharing and air-to-air refuelling compatibility. Overall, the exercise was a success, and the feedback will allow us to identify areas for improvement.”