Ample Strike 2021
Report and photos by Peter van den Berg
October 10, 2021
The Czech Republic led exercise Ample Strike for the eighth time as this 2021 edition took place from September 6-19, 2021. During this exercise I visited Náměšt nad Oslavou and Čáslav AB. Ample Strike is a multi-national Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) exercise, which offered realistic training scenarios for eight allies in this year’s edition. The goal: maintaining currency on critical capability.
The south of the country was the theatre for live-flying and live-firing training exercises in which the Czech Armed Forces and seven of its allies participated. The other countries involved were Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Czech Air Force Colonel Aleš Cápal provided an insight in the goals of the exercise during a media presentation at the Náměšt Air Base on September 14. Ample Strike 2021 provides the opportunity to harmonize JTAC procedures with air crews and ground commanders in a multinational environment. “… focus will be on the Czech Armed Forces’ ability to provide Host Nation support to Allied units and aircraft detachments. Last but not least, the participating pilots will practice air-to-air refueling and fly close air support missions for the forces on the ground.”
Involved locations, units and aircraft
The exercise utilizes multiple military training areas throughout the country, such as the ones at Boletice, Bechyně, and Vicenice, the 22nd Helicopter Base at Náměšt nad Oslavou, the 21st Tactical Air Force Čáslav, the 26th Regiment of Command, Control and Survey compound at Stará Boleslav and the Pardubice Airport. This offers a wide variety of aircraft and helicopters to work with for the JTACs. Involved are the Czech Mi-35/24 and Mi-171 helicopters and L-159 aircraft, Hungarian JAS-39 Gripen fighters, German Learjet and PC-9M aircraft and the Slovenian L-39 Albatros light fighters. The U.S. Air Force flew the KC-135 tanker aircraft for air-to-air refueling and their MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial system.
A total of more than 20 aircraft and helicopters spent around 450 hours in the airspace of the Czech Republic.
Initial opportunities for JTAC teams to perform exercises were adopted in the Ramstein Rover exercise series, held at Ramstein AB in Germany. Since 2014, the Czech Republic has continued the tradition with the Ample Strike exercise series, dedicated to NATO JTACs. The exercise is well-received throughout its participants for demonstrating allied cooperation and interoperability in keeping everyone’s critical capability on par.
Ample Strike 2021 commenced when both Czech and abroad stationed participants took off. The main base of this multinational JTAC exercise is Náměšt nad Oslavu supported by its nearby training areas at at Bechyně and Boletice. This is also the station where the Texas National Guard deployed their MQ-9 reaper unmanned aerial systems (UAS) from. The effort spent on having the US MQ-9 Reapers participate in this year’s edition had a strategic goal: to enable Czech and international participants to become acquainted and practice with state-of-the-art combat technology.
Germany and Hungary flew in their Eurofighter EF-200s and JAS-39 Gripens respectively, offering Close Air Support (CAS) missions for the JTACs on the ground. The Gripens carried Litening 4i LDP (Laser Designator Pods) aiming and reconnaissance containers offering training against ground targets during the exercise missions. The main advantage according to one of the Gripen pilots:
“This container makes it possible to strike ground targets in virtually any lighting conditions”.
The training exercise was further supported by the German Learjet as well as two Czech L-159 fighters out of Čáslav. Highlight of the exercise was the live firing to create realistic training and multinational cooperation. The Ondřejov air shooting range saw the utilization of the Czech Mi-24/25 attack helicopter which started its missions from a forward arming and refueling point.
Aerial refueling was provided by the USAF Nebraska ANG with 2 KC-135R of the 155 ARW, operating from Pardubice Air Base. The more than 40 flying hours provided not only NATO collaboration and capability of extending the operation of the participants but was also the annual overseas training needed for the 155 ARW. The KC-135 Stratotankers provided aerial refueling to the F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath, England, which in their turn provided support to the JTACs on the ground.
In the wake of a world heavily struck by COVID-19, Ample Strike 2021, with almost 700 allied troops participating this year, was one of the largest NATO military exercises in the territory.