Duel in the sky

Duel in the sky


The deafening silence of the morning is broken by two Eurofighter Typhoons chasing each other in the air. One is flown by a Weapons Under Graduate (WUG), the other by a qualified weapons instructor. They´re practicing the classic aerial combat, one versus one, the sport of kings!

Two Eurofighter pilots train air combat at their physical and psychological limits

Weapons Under Graduates (WUGs) train at the weapons school at their physical and psychological limits


The maneuvers in the air are part of the core skillsets of fighter pilots, Basic Fighter Maneuvers (BFM) or also called dogfighting. They are part of the first tactical phase of the weapons instructor course at the German Air Force Weapons School. For the WUGs it is the first flying phase on their way to becoming a weapons instructor.

Together with Tornado-, A400M pilots and experts from the air battle management and military intelligence, they go through a rigorous six-month training course at the weapons school. Above all stands the task, that they learn to expose and exploit each other’s strengths and weaknesses of their respective weapons platforms As trained weapons instructors, their ambition is to pass on their knowledge elsewhere: for example, in the development or further development of flying weapons systems and operational procedures, in training courses and missions.

At the physical, psychological and technical limits

The complexity of the missions increases steadily in the course: If the WUGs are taught the theoretical basics in a joint academic course, they then move directly into the practical phases and subject-related specialisation.

The Eurofighter pilots train in Laage, the Tornado pilots in Jagel and the A400M pilots in Wunstorf. The course participants from the fields of military intelligence and operational management are now integrated across aircraft and locations.
Using the Eurofighter weapon system as an example: After the duel of the Eurofighter pilots, one versus one, the fight one versus two follows. The instructor takes over the role of the enemy. Simulating an opponent who is equal or even better in aircraft performance and/or better equipped with state of the art weapons.

Team spirit is the key – two Eurofighters in the air

Team spirit is the key – Fight lead and instruct – as a team


The next challenge of the tactical phase for the Eurofighter pilots is Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM): In a close visual range, two WUGs fight as a team versus one adversary fighter aircraft and later versus multiple adversaries in a dynamic, all aspect air combat scenario. Their task is to find, identify and eliminate the adversaries by using their sensors, weapons and tactics.

There will also be situations, where the adversary suddenly appears behind the WUGs and now, instead of the attack, the defence to initially negate the threat have to be initiated.

During the fight, the WUGs are exposed to speeds in excess of 600 kilometres per hour and g forces up to +9g.

Change of scene: A different place, a different weapon system

The Tornado WUGs are fighting the air to ground war. This means for the Tornado crews, they are now being drilled day and night in the fight against ground targets with their precision-guided weaponry and the aircraft cannon. The focus is on the planning and evaluation of tactics, techniques and procedures in order to be able to survive later in a complex scenario with exposure to sophisticated adversary air defence systems such as surface to air missile sites.

Two Tornados perform air to surface attacks

In Jagel, the Tornado crews execute air to ground tactics


Participating for the first time: A400 pilots

Success in a combat environment relies on integration of all assets and weapons platforms. For the first time in a german air force weapons instructor course, A400M pilots are also taking part. At their home base in Wunstorf, they are currently conducting academic training in preparation for their flying phase, where they will hone their tactics, techniques and procedures. They will fly missions performing combat drops of paratroopers, special operations forces and material, as well as landing on makeshift runways, low-level flight scenarios – under constant threat of surface based air defence and adversary fighter aircraft.

They will not fly into harms way alone, Eurofighter typhoons will train their escort and protection role.

Two Eurofighters give the A400M protection in the air

Two Eurofighters protect the A400M


Plan – Brief – Execute – Debrief & Learn – as a Team!

Prior to their mission employment phase with the RNLAF, the WUGs and other assets of the german military will join forces to integrate as a team in the exercise Baltic hunter. This exercise is staged at Laage air force base and will include multiple assets such as joint terminal attack controllers, CH-53GS/GAGrundausbildung helicopters inserting ground forces, air to air refuelling assets and the NATO E-3A AWACSAirborne Early Warning and Control System. In small linked air warfare operations they all have to prove their skills and combine their abilities.

Two Eurofighters employ IR countermeasures

Eurofighters defy a threat to the A400M by firing flares


The final phase of the weapons instructor course will take place in the Netherlands. German Eurofighter typhoons and tornados will fly mission while integrating with RNLAF F-35s and F-16s to conduct complex composite air operations.

von René Gutjahr