Held in Germany in mid-July, ELITE is an annual exercise with an emphasis on electronic warfare. The name is an acronym for Electronic Warfare Live Training Exercise. ELITE has grown from a wing-level-only exercise in 1991 to its present form, a multi-national, joint training opportunity with participants from both within and outside Europe.
Exercise activity is centered on the Heuberg Range in southern Germany, between Stuttgart and Munich. Heuberg is Germany's largest military training area and has the perfect terrain to hide surface-to-air threats and ground-based countermeasures. The hills, trees and green valleys are a stark contrast to the desert areas used in the United States for training.
The aim of ELITE is to develop and test new and old electronic tactics in the most realistic conditions possible. Ground crews try to jam and interfere with incoming aircraft, while the airborne assets do the reverse, attempting to bust through any threats posed from the ground.
This year saw 17 nations plus the North Atlantic Treaty Organization taking part, with another nine nations participating as observers. Seventeen different ground weapon system were employed, from Patriot and SA-8 through to Rapier and Skyguard. The threat emitters were strategically placed around the range.
With no airfield on the Heuberg Range itself, all the aircraft were scattered around nearby German Air Force bases with a couple of exceptions.
Helicopters, based at German Army airfield Laupheim:
Germany - CH-53GS
Germany - Bo105
Germany - Sea King
Belgium - Augusta 109
Transport assets, based at Landsberg:
Germany - C-160D
France - C-160F
Poland - Casa C-295
France - BR.1150 Atlantic
Fighter assets, based at Lechfeld:
Germany - Tornado ECR
Germany - Tornado IDS
Germany - Tornado Recce
Greece - F-16C
Italy - Tornado
Turkey - F-16C
Turkey - F-4E
Poland - Su-22
Spain - EF-18A
Other assets, based in Germany or outside:
NATO - E-3
France - E-3F
Germany - Eurofighter
USA - F-16CJ
FRA (Great Britain) - Falcon 20
GFD (Germany) - Learjet
Each day saw two sorties flown by each asset, in the morning and afternoon. The helicopters would skitter across the range at low level, dipping below 50 feet or, in the case of the CH-53CS, landing to simulate dropping off troops. The fighters usually stayed higher with the exception of the German Tornados who were very low most of the time and sometimes employing chaff while thundering by.
The transport element was very impressive to watch in action. The Transalls and Casa C-295 flew very low and used a vast amount of flares. The flare stars, though, were the CH-53GSs. They looked like a mobile fireworks show.
Vast amounts of data was collected during each mission and used in debriefs so the ground and air crews could lean and see exactly what took place.
In all, ELITE involved 1500 military personnel at the various airbases and another 1700 on the Heuberg range and barracks, making it one of Europe's largest exercises.
Sincere thanks to all the Public Affairs Office staff at the various bases and the Heuberg Range for a truly enlightening experience.