Nations unite to heighten allied air power

ALBACETE, Spain – An Italian air force Tornado jet fighter and bomber taxis onto the flightline after participating in an air misison of the Tactical Leadership Programme Nov. 14. The TLP is a NATO-based training exercise with the goal of developing leadership skills, enhancing tactical air operation abilities, and reaffirming conceptual and doctrinal initiatives of the participating nations. Seven nations are present at this course: France, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

An Italian air force Tornado jet fighter and bomber taxis onto the flightline after participating in an air mission of the Tactical Leadership Program Nov. 14, 2012. The TLP is a NATO-based training exercise that develops leadership skills, enhances tactical air operation abilities, and reaffirms conceptual and doctrinal initiatives of seven participating nations: France, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee)

ALBACETE, Spain -- Pilots from seven nations have been working together since early November with a goal of increasing the effectiveness of allied air forces and strengthening multinational partnerships.

This Tactical Leadership Programme course, a NATO-based training exercise from Nov. 5-30, encourages interoperability by developing leadership skills, enhancing tactical air operation abilities, and reaffirming conceptual and doctrinal initiatives.

Simply put, each nation's pilots work closely together during each part of the planned 16 air missions. All receive a general mission briefing but then separate into specific planning groups. Each group must complete certain objectives, which challenge the cooperation of the multinational team. Before stepping to their aircraft, they must coordinate the individual plans and integrate each element's capability to achieve the desired objectives. After the daily air mission ends, the pilots meet again to determine successes, failures or best practices. Using these lessons learned, they strive to gain and maintain air dominance in the next mission.

"Building partnership capacity is an integral part of today's mission," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Douglas Sirk, Warrior Prep Center Detachment 1 commander and native of Staunton, Va. "This training allows us to build a stronger team. We are able to integrate the pros and cons of each asset now so we can push forward as one unit, which is much more effective than 10 - 15 nations acting separately."

Participating nations include France, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The 480th Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, is the American unit present and represents a part of U.S. European Command's air assets.

"The United States and NATO train to parallel standards," said U.S. Air Force Capt. David Dubel, 480th FS pilot, TLP participant and native of San Diego. "They're basically the same, but the terminology is different; the pace of battle is a little different. TLP allows us to work together utilizing NATO standard procedures and an opportunity to understand the capabilities and limitations that each nation brings to the fight."

Training together now aims to help each nation conquer communication barriers before acting as one military force during contingency operations across the world. The course enables a free exchange of information on weapons, tactics and capabilities through which the students hope to hone their understanding of modern air warfare -- a mindset that embraces the "Stronger Together" concept of U.S. EUCOM.

"War is stressful," Sirk said. "So, we train with as much stress as possible in peacetime operations to simulate that wartime environment. We started the training with basic tasks, but as the exercise progresses, we begin to introduce the more complex objectives.

"We want the training to be as modern and up-to-date as possible," he continued. "This training is Europe's premiere large-force exercise program. By having these different nations participate, we create a more effective combat capability as a coalition."

Course instructors use real-world global developments to construct mission objectives. The wide-range use of mission profiles is to add a sense of realism to the training and defend against potential threats to NATO and friendly countries.

"The point of the course is not tactical execution," Dubel said. "It's all about the planning and working together as a cohesive team. We spend a lot of time debriefing the scenario to build partnerships and understand the barriers we face in today's Joint environment."