Early October saw some unusual American visitors to UK shores. First to arrive, at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk,
on October 9 were two highly modifi ed Grumman Gulfstream IIBs operated by the Missile Defense Agency as
‘High Altitude Observatory’ (HALO) platforms.
The jets, civil registered as N178B (radio call sign Halo 2) and N779LC (radio call sign Halo 4), had arrived from jes in the Azores having left Pease
International Airport, New Hampshire, the day before.
Later the same day, a US AirForce F-16C from the 31st Fighter Wing based at Aviano Air Base, Italy arrived at
RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, carrying an AQM-37C high-speed aerial target.
The expendable drone, capable of speeds of
up to Mach 4 and altitudes of 100,000ft and more is used for simulating airborne threats ranging from conventional aircraft
to missiles. Although the US Air Force would not comment, AIR International understands the jet, which was joined
by three other Aviano-based F-16s over the following days, was being fl own by members of Air Combat Command’s
53rd Wing based at Eglin Air Force Base,Florida as part of Exercise Formidable
Shield. Centred on the QinetiQ-operated Ministry of Defence Hebrides Range,the exercise ran from September 18 to
October 18. Led by the US 6th Fleet and supported by the UK Ministry of Defence, it
aimed to improve allied interoperability in a live-fi re integrated air and missile defence environment, using NATO command
and control reporting structures.
Both the Gulfstreams and F-16s took part.UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “North Korean tests have shown the
danger of rogue states developing longer range missiles. By hosting this cutting-
edge exercise in anti-missile defence with allied navies Britain is at the forefront of developing a more effective response to
this growing threat.”