NARRATIVE BY MARC NEWITT & IMAGES BY MARK ROURKE AND MANOLO ACOSTA ZAPATA
Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) – Gando 2015
Gando air base on the holiday island of Gran Canaria is the venue for the annual Dissimilar Air Combat Training undertaken by the Spanish Air Force ( Ejercito del Aire). Pixelsnipers travelled to Gando in February to witness the 2015 exercise and report on why the Spanish Air Force puts such importance on DACT and how the goals set out for the participating units are achieved.
Held annually over a 2 week period, the exercise brings together assets from the Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to hone their skills in advanced air to air combat against other aircraft types (hence the name “Dissimilar”).Active fighter squadrons practice the art of aerial warfare within their own units on a regular basis, and the Spanish Air Force is no different. But to add that extra realism, and to hone those skills learned, it is essential that combat fighter pilots train against aircraft different to their own.
This is known as Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT), and is why the Mando Aereo de Canarias (Canary Islands Combat Command) host the exercise at Gando.Not all assets are based at Gando, aérodromo militar de Lanzarote (Lanzarote military airfield) is also used as a base of operations over the 2 weeks mostly hosting the heavier elements of the exercise.
DACT is held in the Canary Islands as they have a huge exercise area south of the islands, with very few restrictions and no commercial traffic. This allows pilots to fly at supersonic speeds, release chaff and flares, and is as close to real air warfare as it can possibly get without firing live munitions.
The week preceding the exercise has the participating squadrons arriving at Gando, but there is no time for relaxing on Gran Canaria’s sun kissed beaches. The weekend is spent with classroom lectures and conferences on weapons and tactics. The actual first mission takes place once these have been completed, which is a one versus one scenario with basic Air Combat Manoeurves (ACM). As the week goes on, so does the complexity of the missions, with more aircraft involved on each sortie with stricter rules of engagement and more dynamic ACM. The fighter pilots also learn about the importance of inter-operability, with various other Spanish Air Force units taking part with such diverse roles as Lockheed KC-130H air-to-air refuellers, Electronic Warfare Dassault Falcon 20E alongside the veteran Boeing 707 and CASA 101 Aviojet’s performing the ‘Aggressor’ role. With the exercise taking part away from the Spanish mainland it also gives the participants an understanding of what it is like to be deployed and remain operational in a high temp enviroment.
Also involved in DACT 2015 was a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Boeing E-3A Sentry from Geilenkirchen Air Base in Germany. This aircraft provided Airborne Warning and Control coverage during the whole two week exercise.
After the end of the first week there is a pilot exchange to allow as many personnel as possible to train during the two weeks.
Ala 46 (46 Wing) is based at Gando on Gran Canaria with two subordinate units, 462 Escuadrón (Squadron) with its McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornets and 802 Escuadrón with its Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma and CASA CN.235MPA for search and rescue (SAR)
Gando Air Base
Gando Air Base, part of the Canary Islands Air Command, is located east of the island of Gran Canaria, within the municipalities of Telde and Ingenio. It is equipped and able to operate continuously, and to host a large number of aircraft and personnel, and if necessary deployment of other units Air Force Air Command outside the Canary Islands.
Ala 46 (46 Wing) was established on January 9th 1928, and was deployed between Cape Juby and Villa Cisneros. In 1935 this unit was reorganized and renamed “1st Squadron of the Desert”. On February 3rd 1939 Gando received the first detachment of the Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force) andwas the first official representation of the Air Force in the Canaries. On October 17th 1940, following a reorganization of the Air Force, 112 Grupo (Group) was integrated together with the 54 Escuadrón (Squadron) at Hidros based in Las Palmas on May 30th 1941.Together they formed 29 Grupo Expedicionario (Expeditionary Group) from Getafe.
Ala 46 (46 Wing) is the main unit located at Gando Air Base. It is composed at present by 462 Escuadrón, equipped with the F/A-18A Hornet. Ala 46 have been operating from Gando since 1940 and have hosted 29 Grupo with Fiat CR-32, the No. 4 Joint Regiment with Fiat CR-32 and Junkers JU-52, and Ala 36 with Messerschmitt Me-109 (Buchón), Heinkel HE-111 and Junkers JU-52. In fact Ala 46 had flown over thirty aircraft which include types such as the North American T-6 Texan, Douglas DC-3, Hispano HA-200 Saeta , CASA (Northrop) SF-5, Dassault Mirage F-1 and CASA C-202 Aviocar. Ala 46 was directly involved in the Saharan conflict of 1957 to 1975 and today is the first means of defence and air logistics support in the Canary Islands, and maintains close cooperation in joint operations and exercises with units of the Army and Navy.
The early history of 462 Squadron goes back to August 1940, with the arrival in Gando of 29 Grupo Expedicionario equipped with 24 aircraft including the FIAT CR-32, from the 21 Regimiento (Regiment) de Caza de Getafe. War of Ifni-Sahara was the scene of action where 462 Escuadrón has written the most glorious pages of its history; Over 18 years (1957-1975), the various units deployed by the Air Force to the Sahara had an intense period of constant surveillance and patrol missions over the desert territory. In 1975, 464 Escuadrón was activated in order to have in the Canaries fighter coverage at all times. In 1982 462 Escuadrón received the Dassault Mirage F-1 and in 1999 conversion from the Dassault F-1 to the Boeing F/A-18. At present 462 Escuadrón, equipped with the C-15 (Boeing F/A-18 Hornet) is designated for defence, attack and air support of the Canary Islands. The aircraft at Gando are different from other Spanish Air Force Hornets in that they are ex United States Navy assets.
Participants – DACT 2015, Gando, Gran Canaria
|Ala 12, Torrejón AB||Boeing E/F-18M|
|Ala 14, Los Llanos AB||Eurofighter 2000 Typhoon|
|Ala 15, Zaragoza AB||Boeing E/F-18M|
|Ala 31, Zaragoza AB||Lockheed KC-130H|
|Ala 46, Gando AB||Boeing F/A-18A|
|Ala 46, Gando AB||CN-235M-100 (MPA) (D4)|
|NAEW&CF, Geilenkirchen AB||Boeing E-3A Sentry||LX-N90453|
Participants – DACT 2015, Aeródromo Militar de Lanzarote (Lanzarote Military Airfield), Lanzarote
|Grupo Mixto 47, Torrejón AB||Boeing 707 (ELINT)|
|Dassault Falcon 20E|
|CASA C.212 Aviocar (Electronic Warfare)|
|Grupo de Escuelas Matacán AB||CASA C.101 Aviojet|