The Advanced Training and Leadership Course (ATLC) is run annually at Al Dhafra Airbase in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and is hosted by the UAE Air Warfare Centre (UAEAWC). Air Command assists with the development, evolution and implementation of the course, and has been invited to deploy units in support of the UAEAWC for several years.
For ATLC 21, RAF Waddington deployed an E-3D Sentry, two crews and engineers from 8 Sqn, and various support elements from ELW and Ops Sqn. Typhoons from 3(F) Sqn, RAF Coningsby, Surface to Air Missile simulation from Spadeadam Range, and a detachment support party from RAF High Wycombe completed the Air Command footprint. International attendees included FAF Rafales, USAF F-15Es, Jordanian tanker support, Jordanian and Pakistani F-16s, Pakistani MiG-21s, and of course our hosts, the UAE, with their F-16s and Mirage 2000s.
Unfortunately, ATLC 21 did not start smoothly when the C-17 (which was originally scheduled to deploy the advanced and main party) was re-tasked at short notice to assist with the Philippines natural disaster. After a protracted deployment, with three discrete moves via Brize Norton and Al Minhad, the E-3D arrived directly from Ex BERSAMA LIMA, Malaysia, on 24th November 2013, and ATLC flying finally began on 1st December 2013.
The course design team from the UAEAWC found it politically precarious to come up with any fictional country names that wouldn’t offend or confuse at least one international attendee, so they stuck with the very original Redland vs Blueland. However, their excellent scenarios provided Combat Ready upgrade training for several 8 Sqn mission controllers, surveillance personnel and airborne technicians. Mission profiles were diverse and included Defensive/Offensive Counter Air, Combat Search and Rescue and Time Sensitive Targeting, and routinely saw aircraft formations of 20 Blueland aircraft launching in Combined Air Operations (COMAOs) against 8 Redland aircraft. Flight Deck personnel also gained valuable exercise experience, by operating the aircraft in the unfamiliar and constrained airspace. As is often the case, the formal course only made up part of the learning experience and the direct interaction with other nationalities proved highly beneficial. While 8 Sqn were deployed, the UAE celebrated its 42nd National Day of independence. Following the photo shoot attached, all participants were invited to an evening party at the UAEAWC courtyard. Mutton curry proved the most popular dish on the menu, with some fortunate aircrew being offered the choicest part of the meal: the brains (closely followed by the eyeballs)! An international night closed the course, with 8 Sqn and 3(F) Sqn providing our national cuisine (good old fish ‘n’ chips).
The week following ATLC 21, the UAE announced they would not be purchasing UK Typhoon. This was disappointing news for the British Defence industry. However, ATLC 2014 is already in the diary for November and its importance cannot be underestimated. Indeed, in the wider context of defence diplomacy in the Middle East region, participation in ATLC places the UK in a very good position with the Emiratis.
Not only did ATLC 21 provide valuable training to RAF Waddington and RAF Coningsbybased aircrew, but it allowed the Royal Air Force to demonstrate our ability to project our highly agile air power capabilities through the deployment of fast jets and AWACS to a strategically vital part of the Gulf.