Photos and article by Jorg Pfeifer

Participating Aircraft


German Tornado Tornado ECR
C-160D Transall EF2000
Breguet Atlantique


C-160 Transall




Tornado ECR Tornado IDS


Su-22 Fitter CASA C-295M




EF-18 Hornet


F-4 Phantom F-16C



Participating Helicopters

German Air Force B0-105PAH German Air ForceCH-53GS
Belgiium Air Force Agusta A-109

Civil Participants

Falcon DA20 Learjet 35

ELITE is a high-value exercise during which electronic warfare between ground-based air surveillance and defence systems is trained in complex and realistic scenarios.


Aiming to train the Tornado airborne weapons system aircrews in using their self protection system against ground-based air defence systems such as the Roland surface-to-air missile, a so called dual situation exercise was established in 1991 on an initiative by FBW 32 in Lechfeld and SAM Group 43 in Leipheim.  Under the designation "ROLAND-TORNADO" (ROTOR), these exercises were conducted at the Hohenfels Range and were joined by FBW 34 from Memmingen in 1992.  Since 1995, this exercise has been re-named to "ELITE" and other NATO partners from the US, France, Italy, and Turkey have since joined this exercise as well.

Due to strong participation and some

changes in the Air Force structure, the Heuberg Range near Stetten am kalten Markt was selected for the stationing of the ground systems. The aircraft fly from airfields located in southern Germany such as Neuburg, Laupheim, Memmingen, Penzing, manching, and Lechfeld.   The successful program continued with Switzerland and Portugal joining in 2002, Sweden and Republic of Slovenia in 2003, and Spain and Austria in 2004.  Together some 3000 military personnel, 10 ground vehicles, and almost 100 aircraft participate in this exercise.

Meanwhile, this Air Force exercise is established and regarded as a high-value exercise for electronic warfare (EW) for airborne and ground-based weapon systems on an international level.

Elements of ELITE 2008

In total, the following elements will be employed during ELITE 2008
  • 1500 military personnel at the participating bases
  • 17 different ground-based systems from mobile Stinger units, Roland, Ozelot to Skyguard, Mistral, Crotale and SA-6 ,SA-7, SA-8
  • 42 jets
  • 10 helicopters
  • 14 transport aircraft
  • Almost 1700 military personnel at the Heuberg range
Heuberg Range

The place where all the action takes place is one of the smaller training areas of the Bundeswehr, the Heuberg Range. Its beginnings, however, date back to 1910.

In a container camp on Range 10 of the Heuberg training area, the operations centre for ELITE is located. This is where the Exercise Director and the DISTAFF plan all the exercise events and direct ongoing missions. The Joint Analysis Team (JAT), an element composed of electronic warfare experts, process   a huge volume of data collected for initial analysis. It is put to immediate use in the debriefing conducted between the aircraft crews and the operators of the air defence and jamming systems involved in each mission. Sate- of-the-art video telecommunication conference (VTC) technology allows all the exercise locations concerned to be linked with conference rooms on Heuberg Range and the nearby Zollernalb Barracks.

The main objectives of the exercise

  • To provide evidence of the effectiveness and readiness of the weapon system using electronic jamming measures
  • to intensify international cooperation
  • to improve robustness and survivability
  • to further develop and review tactical procedures

The future of ELITE

The next ELITE exercise will take place in 2010 as in 2009 another exercise called European Endeavour takes place, and holding both exercise would be too much of a drain on resources.

Sources: ELITE magazine