Page last updated at 23:07 GMT, Sunday, 27 September 2009 00:07 UK

War games fire up spotter project

Typhoons are among fighter jets expected to feature in Joint Warrior

The start of Europe's biggest military exercise reinforces the need for a plane spotters' viewing platform at RAF Lossiemouth, a campaigner has said.

Lossiemouth Business Association chairman Tony Rook has been pushing for the site for five years.

He said it could see the town capitalise on visits by hundreds of aviation enthusiasts.

The RAF station is expected to be busy during Exercise Joint Warrior, which starts next Monday.

Held twice a year - in spring and autumn - the October training has been extended from the usual two weeks to three this year.

Last year the Royal Saudi Air Force came over to train with Lossiemouth's 617 Squadron and in that particular week 300 people turned up to get a view of the Saudi aircraft
Tony Rook
Lossiemouth Business Association

Sixty aircraft from the RAF and Nato member countries will fly 100 missions a day over Scotland, England and Wales between 0800 and 2300 BST Monday to Friday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have said.

Maritime patrol aircraft from Canada, France, Germany, Norway and the US are expected to participate - together with helicopters from Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Portugal, the UK and the US.

Other aircraft expected to feature include Harrier GR9 launching from aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, as well as Tornado GR4, Typhoons and Hawks.

Mr Rook said a viewing platform would have allowed plane spotters a chance to see jets coming and going from RAF Lossiemouth - the largest and busiest fast jet base in the UK.

He said there was support from the station, local businesses and politicians for the project and talks were ongoing about a site near the end of the air station's active runway.

Low flying

Mr Rook, who served in the RAF before running a newsagents, said: "People do come up to see aircraft.

"Last year the Royal Saudi Air Force came over to train with Lossiemouth's 617 Squadron and in that particular week 300 people turned up to get a view of the Saudi aircraft.

"Three weeks ago, the Red Arrows were at Lossiemouth for the station open day for family and friends.

"A viewing platform would have been ideal for those who could not get tickets to watch the Red Arrows."

Mr Rook said there were viewing sites at nearby RAF Kinloss - home to the service's Nimrod MR2 surveillance aircraft - and bases in England.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said it supported the platform plan.

Ian Fraser, of HIE Moray, said: "As an economic development agency we are clearly supportive of the aims of this initiative.

"We look forward to working with those driving the project as land acquisition issues are developed."

Meanwhile, military aviation enthusiasts have posted messages on places to view aircraft on website Fighter Control.

Locations to see low flying include Pitlochry, Glencoe and Loch Ness.

WAH-64 Apache
Apache helicopters flew over Inverness in May's exercise

Exercise Joint Warrior will see training take place at Cape Wrath in Sutherland, Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire and Sennybridge in mid Wales.

Warships involved will conduct live firing at Cape Wrath - the only regulatory firing range in Northern Europe for vessels.

The Welsh training will involve troops and fast jets using live ammunition.

The first of this year's two exercises was held in May.

It saw Apache attack helicopters and Chinook helicopter transports fly over Inverness en route to training areas.

Last October's exercise in Scotland featured two of the largest vessels in the Royal Navy - assault ship HMS Bulwark and aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious.

In one scenario, a task group of 33 ships and French marines were sent into the fictitious Northern Dispute Zone to tackle the "Dragonians" who had been harassing the "Caledonians and Avalonians".

Soldiers, sailors and air crews from Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and the US were also involved.

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