TRIP REPORT: JOINT WARRIOR MONITORING AT PRESTWICK AIR FORCE BASE

US Navy P-8 Poseidon callsign VVYD09 departing Prestwick Airport.

The second Exercise Joint Warrior of the 2019 officially got underway on Saturday 5th October.

Despite some questionable mainstream media headlines and some outlandish figures quoted, including over 50 naval vessels taking part, this Joint Warrior is indeed one of the smallest ever held.

The initial ship departures took place on Sunday 6th October with the Clyde awash with the slightly smaller than usual flotilla of warships from several nations. And like previous years, Prestwick International Airport in Ayrshire, Scotland, would play a significant role in the exercise.

The airport itself is used to hosting a large and varied amount of military visitors, a fact which recently made the headlines following an investigation instigated by US Congress over a possible conflict of interest due to military aircrews staying at Trump Turnberry. These allegations have led to the Scottish Government also coming under scrutiny due to the airport currently being a publicly-owned asset operated on a fully commercial basis.

Politics aside, the reality is Prestwick Airport has also been of significant importance to the US military machine. It wasn’t that long ago the United States Air Force had a permanent presence at Prestwick Airport. The airports location, facilities, extensive dispersal and the fact the airport is rarely ever closed due to adverse weather will always make it appealing to military planners.

Despite the second Joint Warrior of the year having a small number of ships, Prestwick Airport would still see its fair share of aircraft, with all of the multi-national Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA); FRA Falcons and Royal Navy Fast Jets operating from the airport.

As always, there would be a regular influx of additional rotary assets visiting as well, also making use of the space available at the former Royal Navy Search & Rescue base at HMS Gannet. Although no aircraft repentantly based there, HMS Gannet remains guarded and in a state of readiness to act as a forward operating base (FOB) for Royal Navy Merlin helicopters and other units as required.

Finally with a spare afternoon in my schedule today (Wednesday 15th October) it was time to grab the gear bags and head down to the airport. My camera bag remains packed and charged at all times, as well as my mobile radio bag which includes handheld radios, a Dell laptop for computer programming and control, and the usual selection of notebooks and stationary for every possible eventuality.

As well as the handheld, I also have a Uniden Bearcat UBC800XLT permanently mounted in my car.

The mobile monitoring setup including a handheld Uniden Bearcat 3500XLT and a computer controlled Uniden Bearcat UBC800XLT.

Arriving at the airport, it only took a few minutes to prime the camera, setup the laptop and fire up the radios. A quick look indicated I had timed it nicely arriving just after lunchtime, with 3x Canadian Air Force CP140s; 1x French Navy Atlantique; 4x FRA Falcons; 2x Royal Navy Hawks and a USAF P-8 Poseidon all sitting on dispersal glistening in the October sun. In addition to the Joint Warrior aircraft, a Kuwait Air Force C-17 and a USAF C-17 were both also parked up at the airport.

I was literally just about to open up my tactical lunch box to grab a sandwich when the first aircraft called up for clearance. Calling as FRENCH NAVY 5280, the Atlantique aircraft was passed engine start, routing clearance and taxi instructions for a final departure back to France. Speaking with other enthusiasts at the airport, it seems the other French Atlantique returned home yesterday.

Shortly after departure, TOPKNOT 21 flight – 2x FRA Falcons started up and departed routing north for an afternoon Joint Warrior sortie followed quickly by the 2x Royal Navy Hawks calling as JEDI flight.

As much as I enjoy watching and listening to the FRA Falcons and Royal Navy Hawks, my real interest in Joint Warrior lies in the long-range Maritime Patrol Aircraft, specifically the US Navy P-8 Poseidon. At the height of Joint Warrior, a total of 2x US Navy P-8s were on the ground at the airport, with one reported to be transiting back from Sigonella.

JEDI flight – 2x Royal Navy Hawks – depart Prestwick Airport for a Joint Warrior sortie.

As luck would have it, one of the P-8s departed Prestwick Airport around 1800 hours yesterday and failed to return, with the working assumption being it returned back to the USA.

After a short break in the flying, and time to finally delve into the delights of my lunch box, the callsign I had been waiting for called up on Prestwick Approach 119.450MHz – VVYD09 with an American accent. This was the US Navy P-8 Poseidon returning back after the morning sortie.

Much to my delight, instead of a full stop landing, VVYD09 were vectored for an ILS approach to runway 12 for a touch and go, thereafter requesting to enter the visual circuit for some additional crew training.

After multiple circuits, the return of JEDI flight with an impressive run and break and a substantial amount of photographs later, the P-8 VVYD09 completed a full stop landing and thereafter taxied back to dispersal.

With only the FRA Falcons due to return and have enjoyed several hours of military aviation action, it was time to head back to the car, pack all the kit away and think about heading back home. As I got back to the car, TIGER 02 called up requesting engine start on the dispersal with 10 POB. As I drove away from the airport, I could hear the distinctive sound of the rotors running in the background.

Heading back to the shack it was a quick drop off of all of the kit before heading home to the flat. The camera gear will need recharged and repacked as well as the radio kit bag, but that will need to wait until next week.

Thanks to modern technology, I was able to download the do some quick photo edits on my phone to post in relative live time on social media. All of the photos from today have already been backed up across several network drives for future and will likely get some proper editing attention later down the line for another project I am currently working on.

I don’t get out nearly as much as I used to when it comes to military aviation and radio monitoring, so I really enjoy and savour any opportunity. Exercise Joint Warrior routinely provides a bi-annual chance to get back into the field, behind the camera and with a radio in the background.

It’s days like this that keep the military aviation fire burning. Spending some quality time in the fresh air and the sunshine is just an added bonus.

AIRCAFT OPERATING FROM PRESTWICK AIRPORT:

140104 CP140 CFC
140116 CP140 CFC
140118 CP140 CFC
169426 P8 USN
169325 P8 USN
169008 P8 USN
28 ATLANTIC FNY
17 ATLANTIC FNY
XX161 HAWK
XX256 HAWK
G-FRAD DA20
G-FRAF DA20
G-FRAH DA20
G-FRAS DA20

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