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Exercise Cobra Warrior 2018

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Today, this came very close to the farce I made of last years Cobra Warrior exercise. Cobra Warrior is a joint RAF/Luftwaffe exercise (with some Italians thrown in this year, although operating from Waddington for some odd reason) that involves assets from several units from both air arms, but is generally centred around RAF Coningsby, where the Germans normally deploy Eurofighters (don't call them Typhoons!) and a number of their shrinking fleet of Tornados. Last year I managed to book a complete week off work, go up on the Monday with supposedly the best light, and then find it turn grotty when the Germans eventually launched. On the Tuesday a hurricane was forecast over the UK so didn't bother, figuring nothing would fly, and then remember seeing lots of sunny pics taken of them operating...and I nearly did the same thing this year!


Three days available, Wednesday was a bust due to really poor weather, yesterday I judged the forecast wasn't good enough to warrant a 100 mile drive, only to find that they all launched in blue skies early in the morning, although weather was poor later on. So today with a better, but not ideal forecast I went for it, last chance of the week. Found it rather quiet when I arrived, very few people about, and the weather looking ominous in the distance...here we go again. Sure enough, they waited until it clouded over before launching, and then it chucked it down. I nearly turned around then and came home, but I just wondered if it might clear a bit behind when they all started to come back. I got a little luck.


The only movement prior to the exercise launch was a single 41 Sqn callsign heading the few miles down to Holbeach range for some flare work. You can always tell when they do this as they stop halfway down the taxiway for a couple of guys in a truck to go up to the jet and presumably 'arm' them. Also listening in on the radio helps!



Note from the reflection around the fuselage roundel as ZK339 turns that it previously did carry a squadron identity prior to the markings being removed. See them damn clouds building!




For just a few brief seconds, the lead ship in 'Ester' flight catch's a break in the cloud as he leads the first flight down from the shelters. 8 Luftwaffe Eurofighters are operating from the South side shelters, whilst the Tornados are on the main ASP North side.






Then the heavens opened, but I stayed to wait them out and for once I made a good call. 6 Luftwaffe Eurofighters launched (including a twin-stick) and the only one that caught the sunlight when he came back is the one that was slightly different. TLG 73 used to be JG 73 but still retain the 'Steinhoff' name in honour of the famous Luftwaffe ace Johannes Steinhoff, who survived the war and was instrumental in rebuilding the Luftwaffe post war in the NATO era. This is the jet that honours Steinhoff, appropriately marked 30 + 73;






Then, by sheer luck 'Cobalt' flight of 4 TLG 51 Tornados streamed in, catching a nice big gap in the clouds. I was surprised that everybody who was around in the morning had given up and gone by the time they came back. Most were more interested in the Tornados than the Eurofighters, given how time is getting on, even for the Luftwaffe aircraft which will remain in service after the RAF bin all their remaining examples by next April.





They even flew the one fitted with the Tiger Meet fuel tanks!








A couple of RAF examples caught the sun with another building storm behind. After these, and with the Germans all down, I called it a day!










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A great set of photos Gary. The weather here in England is very unpredictable. Also thanks for letting us know about the future of Tornado airpower here in the UK.



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Hi again,


Thanks for that. Just to go into further details on Tornados, RAF Marham Tornado operations finish in April, and the fleet has been worn down heavily in recent months. The local enthusiast community keeps a running log of extant airframes and no more than 21 remain flying as of last week, that includes aircraft deployed to Cyprus for Syrian operations. They probably fly 4 to 5 a day at Marham at the moment at that will obviously only go down.



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Excellent photos as always Gary, thank you for sharing them!



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