Air Force Weapons School

The PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target Air Defense System at Baltic Hunter 2023

The PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target Air Defense System at Baltic Hunter 2023

Date:
Place:
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Reading time:
3 MIN

The importance of air defense has increased since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. The PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target weapon system is part of Baltic Hunter, the weapons instructor final exercise. It counters airborne threats in close cooperation with the Tactical Air Command and Control Service, the Military Intelligence Organization, and flying forces of the German Air Force.

A soldier is standing on a truck and checking a large, rectangular radar that has already been erected.

As part of the Baltic Hunter exercise, 26 Surface-to-Air Missile Group has deployed a PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target weapon system to Parow. The unit cannot do without its multifunction radar. It serves to monitor the airspace and assign targets in case of threats.

Bundeswehr/Rick Püschel

Northern Germany early in the morning. Eurofighter and Tornado pilots are ready to take off into the air. The aircrews of the A400M transport aircraft and the CH-53 transport helicopters, too, are ready for takeoff. Today, they are going to train air warfare – defense and attack. For Lieutenant Colonel Timo H., the day begins after the final mission briefing at the JARVIS control unit in Laage near Rostock. This is where the Baltic Hunter exercise is coordinated, monitored, and evaluated. The exercise is conducted under the control of the Air Force Weapons School.

Three PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target squadrons

Lieutenant Colonel H. is the liaison officer to the ground-based air defense element – the PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target weapon system of 26 Surface-to-Air Missile Group from Husum. As point of contact and intermediary, he is involved in both mission planning and mission conduct. He commands the PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target task force from the control unit. One squadron has moved into a fighting position at a training area near the coast, just 100 kilometers away, whereas two other squadrons from Husum are embedded into the exercise environment by means of computer simulation.

Several military vehicles are standing in a field. In the background, the field borders on the sea.

At the Parow training area, close to the Baltic coast near Stralsund, the combat squadron has moved into its fighting position with its radar, the control station, power generators, and further support vehicles.

Bundeswehr/Lars koch

Combat aircraft and air defense system acting in the same airspace

Air defense systems engage enemy aircraft and missiles within an assigned airspace from the ground. At the same time, aircraft can defend the same airspace from the air. In exactly this airspace, however, they can also fly offensive maneuvers to engage the enemy on the ground and in the air. Thus, cooperation within such a joint engagement zone (JEZ) is not easy. “A JEZ has a complex and also very dynamic environment. This is why precise coordination is needed during a mission as regards procedures and courses of actions”, says Lieutenant Colonel Timo H. “For this reason, we here in Laage monitor every mission – from the first second of planning until the last aircraft has landed – and coordinate the employment of our weapon systems in detail with the flying forces.”

Three combat aircraft are taxiing on the runway of an airfield.

Three Eurofighter aircraft are preparing to take off during the Baltic Hunter exercise. They form one component of the flying forces in this exercise.

Bundeswehr/Stefan Petersen

Time is the most crucial factor

Friend-foe identification is not the only challenge. Once a threat has been detected inside the airspace, it is important to identify the most effective asset for engagement as quickly as possible. For example, both combat aircraft and the PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target weapon system could take action against the enemy aircraft. The command elements at the control unit consider the suitability and resources of the air defense assets available and make the best possible decision. And all of this under an enormous pressure of time because some aircraft and ballistic missiles move through the airspace at several times the speed of sound. Often, only seconds remain to make decisions at the control unit, pass them to the operators of the selected weapon system, and engage the threat.

PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target is an integral part of air defense

On the evening of 19 October, the exercise ends for Lieutenant Colonel Timo H. and the PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target units with a debriefing of all participants. The officer draws a positive conclusion: “The Baltic Hunter multinational exercise offers the rare opportunity to train the different capabilities in concert with the entire spectrum of the air force in a coordinated manner. The missions are instructive for all participants on a long-term basis – from planning to conduct to the detailed evaluation.”

A soldier in a German camouflage uniform is standing with his arms folded in front of a military all-terrain vehicle.

During the Baltic Hunter exercise, Lieutenant Colonel Timo H. is the ground-based air defense liaison officer. From the JARVIS control unit in Laage, he communicates with the PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target units in Parow and Husum.

Bundeswehr/Stefan Petersen

And so, air defense will continue to be an integral part of exercise planning at the Air Force Weapons School in the future. The lessons learned from the joint training are essential for the operations of the Bundeswehr as they already take place on NATO’s eastern flank: with the PatriotPhased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target weapon system in Poland or the Eurofighter quick reaction alert element in the Baltic states – for the surveillance of the airspace and the protection of human lives and infrastructure in an emergency.

by Marc Steinbrecher