NATO’s Tactical Leadership Program Prepares for Fifth Generation Aircraft in European Air Forces

By Defense.Info

With the coming of the F-35 to European Air Forces, a key priority is to work the training side of F-35s and fifth generation aircraft with other types of European Aircraft.

This has been a key focus of attention by the European Air Group for some time, but this Fall, the Italians will host the TLP at their F-35 base in Italy.

The TLP is based at Albacete and the Spanish Air Force has been working the challenge of working 5th gen into the TLP in Spain via working with the F-22.

Tactical Leadership Program (TLP) is a key element of NATO Air Force training.

TLP is a multinational headquarters based at Los Llanos Air Base, Albacete. We are composed of military and civilian personnel from the 10 NATO nations participating in the Programme.  Our main objective is to increase the effectiveness of our air forces in the field of tactical leadership and conceptual and doctrinal initiatives in support of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT) and National Defence Forces.

Throughout our 39 year history, TLP has become the focal point for NATO’s Allied Air Forces tactical training and development of knowledge and leadership skills, necessary to face today’s air tactical challenges. This is being achieved with the effort, dedication and professionalism of our staff, TLP prides itself in having a diverse and talented work force.

The Italian Air Force is hosting the TLP this Fall at its F-35 base. In an April 2018 interview with the Italian Air Chief, this exercise was highlighted.

Question: You are planning to host the first fifth-generation Tactical Leadership Program exercise at Amendola AB [to train NATO aircrews how to work better in a coalition operation].

Are other F-35 nations interested in the exercise?

Answer: Because Amendola is the first European F-35 operational base, it is fully up to speed to host fifth-generation assets for deployment, exercises and real operations.

Therefore, we have offered our partner nations the chance to perform the fourth 2018 TLP course over our territory.

This represents the first opportunity in Europe to host training activities involving the F-35, fostering interoperability between fourth- and fifth-generation assets during complex and advanced missions.

All the TLP-signing nations have shown great interest; there is an initial bidding [to take part in] the course for approximately 50 aircraft.

On the Spanish Air Force website, an article described the first visit of the F-22 to Albacete in August 2018 and the workup on 5th gen operations with Spanish Eurofighters and F-18s.

This story was published on August 17, 2018 and was translated by SLD’s Chloe Laird as follows:

August 17th 2018

The F-22 for the First Time in Spain

Yesterday at the Albacete Air Base, there took place an advanced aerial training exercise, consisting of two USAFE Fifth Generation F22s, a couple of Eurofighter planes as well as some F-18s from the Spanish Air Force.

It was a great opportunity to evaluate the capabilities of the Albacete Air Base and of the Tactical leadership Program (TLP).

The exercise demanded the participation of a 5th generation plane (i.e. the F-22s from the USAF).

Exercises of this sort create an excellent opportunity for instruction and training that allows a successful evaluation of the joint capabilities of the planes- in this case, two of North American manufacture and one of European origin.

Each of them was placed in a demanding tactical environment.

The exercise consisted of two independent missions, both of them placed in the assigned flight zone for their specific purpose….

After the initial takeoff of the two Albacete Air Force Eurofighters, they took part of a mission with one of the F-22s.

During the mission, they carried out different combat maneuvers, in light of the different characteristics of the fighter planes.

At the same time, an F-18 from the 12th Wing detached from Torrejón Air Base in order to meet with the second American F22 and carried out a similar mission.

Next the two Eurofighters from the 14th wing, on a mission of aerial police/enforcement, located a trace corresponding to the F-22 and were able to carry out maneuvers of interception for posterior identification. 

Before any sort of offensive action from the fighter planes, they carried out defensive maneuvers and of partner/paired coordination in order to maintain the enemy control zone. 

Once the work in each sector was completed, each American F-22 reunited with the assigned pair of Spanish Fighters and went on to land at Albacete Air Base.

The photos in the slideshow highlight the engagement the USAF F-22s with the Spanish at Albacete Airbase.

U.S. Air Force photos by Senior Airman Preston Cherry.

Translation for the initial comments in the Spanish video:

It was an exercise to show that the Albacete Base and the TLP are capable of handling fifth generation exercises.

It was a very important moment for the base as well as the TLP.

For a look at our visit to Albacete Airbase in 2016, see the following:

Visiting Albacete Airbase: Eurofighter Operations and Support