Exercise AMPLE STRIKE 2016 (AMSE16) is the third Czech-led international Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) (also known as Forward Air Controller (FAC)) exercise. The Ample Strike exercises follow on from the USAFE organised Flying Rhino and Ramstein Rover JTAC exercises.
This exercise brings together 27 JTAC teams totalling 150 soldiers from 17 Allied and Partnership for Peace nations with the objective to train their JTACs, aircrew and commanders in a range of realistic, complex and demanding scenarios both in reconnaissance and ground support .
The joint tactical training will take place in the military facilities in Boletice, Bechyne, south Bohemia, Namest nad Oslavou and Libava within the Czech Republic
The exercise is planned to run from 5th September to 20th September 2016 with The majority of participating aircraft being based in Namest nad Oslavou, Caslav, central Bohemia, and Pardubice, east Bohemia, in the Czech Republic and from one base each Britain, Germany and Hungary
The helicopters taking part will be taking off from the military air training grounds in Libava, north Moravia, and Boletice, south Bohemia.
The Ally and Partner Nations taking part include: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Canada, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Boeing B1B Lancer 86-0127/DY Boeing B52H 60-0038/BD
Part of the US assets taking part in Ample Strike are 2 Boeing (Rockwell) B1B Lancer of the 489th Bomb Group / 435th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas and 1 Boeing B52H Stratofortress of the Air Force Reserve Command's 307 Bomb Group / 93rd Bomb Squadron based at Barksdale Air Force Base Louisiana both from the 307 Bomb Wing.
Col Denis Heinz OC 489th BG Crew of B52H 60-0038 93rd BS/307 BG
For the duration of AMSE16 the three strategic bombers are operating out of RAF Fairford Gloucestershire UK with the B52H 60-0038/BD callsign “SCALP99” arriving 30th August followed by the pair of B1B Lancer 85-0089/DY callsign Crook1 (The Commanders aircraft) and 86-0127/DY callsign Crook2 on 3rd September.
Following a sighting sortie on 4th September to familiarise crews with both the transit routes and exercise area AMSE16 sorties commenced on the 5th September with one 5hr mission flown each day by single aircraft.
Col Denis Heinz was asked about the missions being under taken, he told us: “ It's a 1hr30min flight to the training area in the Czech Republic where we have been engaging with the Forward Air Controllers and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from 18 different nations dropping simulated weapons on targets for 2hrs before returning to Fairford, phenomenal training the controllers have been very good"
B1B Lancer 85-0089/DY callsign Crook1 powers out of RAF Fairford on a Ample Strike mission
Captain James Bresnahan was asked
why use RAF Fairford as a forward operating base rather than a base on mainland Europe?
Bresnahan “The reason we are here is twofold firstly it makes the mission scenario more realistic for the crews in that they have a transit to the target area and secondly it re-enforces the close ties between the United Kingdom and The US”
Are all the missions’ pre-planned targets?
Bresnahan “We have been planning our participation for about 6 months and the missions are pre-planned however: it is a fluid situation with JTAC giving us changes and new target information when we arrive on station.”
The USAF rules of engagement are different to the other participating countries has this caused problems for you?
Bresnahan “Not at all as we have liaised with the other nations beforehand to ensure we all understand each other’s operating procedures.”
So why are the Boeing B1B's taking part as well as the B52H?
Heinz ” The B1B are crewed by reservists as well as full time crews from the 489th BG this gives them deployment experience, also that the aircraft deployed are both B1B Lancers that have been upgraded to Block 16 specification so a good test of the Block 16 upgrades.”
Block 16 means that B1B’s are fitted with Lockheed Martin Sniper Advance Targeting Pods (ATP) and upgraded tactical communications fit.
Lockheed Martin Sniper ATP mounted on B52H (left) and B1B (right)
The Sniper ATP fitted to both the B1B and B52H provides precision targeting and non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NTISR) mission capability. These pods fitted to the B1B and B52H are ideally suited to the missions flown in support of AMSE16 as they give the crews and JTAC better precision when identifying and targeting enemy threats.
The updated fully integrated data link (FIDL) upgrades to the Block 16 specification aircraft include cockpit modifications, new processors, colour displays and communications architecture, enhancing the B1B’s crews' situational awareness and communications capability.
So as well as the Sniper and FIDL upgrades how does the B1B maintain its position with the accuracy needed for JTAC support missions?
The B1B is fitted with Honeywell ASN-131 radar altimeter, Kearfott inertial navigation system, Northrop Grumman (Teledyne Ryan) APN-218 Doppler radar velocity sensor (DVS), Honeywell APN-224 radar altimeter, Rockwell Collins ARN-118 TACAN tactical air navigation system. These systems can be updated by Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) where available to enhance accuracy.
Another modification to the B1B Lancer are the airflow intake splitter plates fitted to the F101-GE-102 turbofan engines. It was discovered that the original splitter plates significantly increased the B1B’s radar signature so they were redesigned by Boeing however; there is a trade-off between the reduction in the aircrafts radar signature and the reduction in maximum speed attainable.
Modified airflow splitter plates on the B1B Maintainers carry out running repairs to the B1B
These continued upgrades are expected to increase the service life of the B1B up to the year 2040.
As well as aircrew the detachment is supported by maintainers and armourers who will service and repair the aircraft. This proved vital as soon into the deployment one of the B1B went unserviceable but was repaired and test flown within two days. One of the maintainers explained that one of the problems they have with both the B1B and B52H is one of spare part acquisition since the airframes are so old. At times this has necessitated in orders placed with DoD approved suppliers to reverse engineer original Boeing (Rockwell) parts.
A full set of photos from this visit can be found here: http://www.cliffibell.co.uk/p194131703
Cliff Ibell Images would like to thank Col Denis Heinz and his staff from 489th Bomb Group USAF, 501st Combat Support Wing (501 CSW) USAF and OC RAF Fairford in the making of this article. Also a special thanks to Lt Monique Roux and Staff Sgt Nicholas Filip for setting me straight!