Exercise Report : Real Thaw 2016
Exercise Real Thaw 2016 - Base Aérea de Beja, Portugal
Helmut Richter visited Beja Air Base in Portugal attending the spotters day organized during exercise Real Thaw 2016.
Real Thaw is the annual exercise of the Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa – FAP), which typically is held at the end of February and involves the full range of FAP’s fixed wing and rortary wing assets as well as some foreign participation.
This year’s edition was held at the airbase of Beja, which is the host of the Alpha Jet As of Esquadron 103 (Esq103) as well as Esq552’s equally venerable Alouette IIIs and Esq601’s P-3C Orions. For the exercise, Esq502 (C295M), Esq751 (EH-101) and Esq501 (C-130H) had one aircraft each based at Beja, but by far the biggest FAP element was composed of 12 F-16AMs from Esqadrones 201 and 301.
- As in previous years, US forces supported Real Thaw with a range of assets:
- six F-15C/D Eagles from 493rd FS / 48th FW - USAF
- two C-130J Hercules from 37th AS / 86th AW - USAF
- two MV-22B Ospreys from VMM-263 - USMC
- Additional foreign participation comprised:
- four AS55C2 helicopters from 724 Esk - Royal Danish AF
- one C-130H Hercules from 15 Wing / 20 Sqn - Belgian AF
- one C-130H-30 Hercules from 336 Sqn - Royal Netherlands AF
- one C212 Aviocar from 721 Esc - Spanish AF
- one E-3A Sentry and one DA-20C provided by NATO
In line with the wide range of assets, which also included ground forces and Navy participation, the exercise program involved a wide range of missions, including logistics, refuelling, paradrop, personnel recovery/medevac as well as offensive and defensive air operations by fast jets.
On March 2 a spotters day was organised at Beja, during which all the images of this report were taken. The organisation was excellent and followed the program of flying activities during the day as well as the course of the sunset, providing fantastic photo opportunities on the ramps and during take-offs and landings.
Unfortunately, some of the participants were not active on that day. In particular there were no helicopter operations and the local Alouette IIIs as well as the other helicopters remained invisible. On the other hand, the opportunity to catch a range of Alpha Jets in different colour schemes as well as a local P-3C and some of the interesting foreign participants was very welcome. Also, as evident from the images, some of the crews endeavoured to present their aircraft to the photographers in rather spectacular fashion. Last not least, two visiting F-16AMs of the Royal Norwegian AF contributed to a very successful day and a perfect start into the new season of aircraft spotting.
Report and photos by Helmut Richter ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 9 July 2016