ALBACETE AIR BASE, Spain—The 493rd Fighter Squadron from Royal Air Force Lakenheath is participating in the Tactical Leadership Program here Jan. 16 through Feb. 7.
The TLP is a multinational program that enhances key leadership and mission planning skills needed for NATO operations.
“It’s a ten-nation consortium within NATO that tries to develop tactical leadership skills specifically by developing mission commanders in a variety of different flying fields,” said Lt. Col. Mike Casey, 493rd FS commander.
Started in 1978, the course is an organization formed under a Memorandum of Understanding between ten NATO nations. The 493rd FS, flying F-15C Eagles, is training alongside six other NATO partners from Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
“Multi-national integration in a training environment is very applicable to how we do things now,” said Maj. Manny Gomez, director of operations of Detachment 1 of the War Preparation Center located at the TLP. “We typically do not go anywhere by ourselves anymore, we always are in some type of coalition and most likely it is going to be a NATO partner.”
Throughout the month-long program the mission commanders attend academic classes, then face a variety of different scenarios during which they will execute more than 16 different missions.
“When they come in the morning at 10, they basically have from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. to plan a mission and then launch at 3 o’clock and go execute,” said Casey. “It’s a very constrained mission planning
timeline that we are not used to doing anywhere else.”
Not only is the mission-planning timeline short, but the TLP staff develops a syllabus to challenge the pilots training in the program.
According to Gomez, on some missions they will pair two F-15C Eagles with two Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons, which forces the aircrews to operate in a different way than they do at home station.
The training environment identifies the nations’ operational differences and then teaches the trainees how to work and fight together prior to a real-world scenario.
“We (the USAF) can bring in experience that we acquire across the globe and share that with our allies,” said Gomez. “At the same time, we can learn from them because they also have different ways of doing things.”
Exercising in Spain offers great air space and allows the program to put 25 to 30 aircraft in the air at one time.
“By coming to one central location we can brief and debrief face-to-face, and work with airframes and with nations that we don’t normally work with in an integrated fashion,” said Casey.
The last time the 493rd FS participated in the TLP was in the fall of 2009. According to Casey, his squadron will continue to try to send its pilots here not only to train, but to continue fostering the spirit of cooperation between NATO countries.
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