Cobra Warrior Military Exercise 2023: Friendly Allies Meet at Waddington

The Cobra Warrior military exercise is a biennial event that brings together military personnel and aircraft from various friendly nations to train together and improve their combat capabilities. The Exercise saw some 70 aircraft training together in high intensity, large force, simulated complex tactical air warfighting operations for three weeks during March 2023.

Dino van Doorn and Bas Stubert report for Global Military Aviation Photography (GMAP) on the 2023 edition of the Cobra Warrior exercise

In 2023, the exercise was held at RAF Waddington in the United Kingdom, and saw the participation of several multinational jets like the Indian Air force with five Mirage 2000’s, the Finnish Air force with six F-18 Hornets but also six EF-2000 Typhoons from Saudi Arabia. The Belgium Air Force left already the second week with their F-16’s back home.

The exercise, which lasted for three weeks, was designed to simulate real-world combat scenarios and test the interoperability of different military units. It provided a unique opportunity for pilots and ground crews to train together in a joint environment and learn from each other’s experiences.

During the exercise, the participating pilots conducted a variety of missions, including air-to-air combat, air-to-ground attacks, and reconnaissance missions. They also had the opportunity to practice their air-to-air refueling skills, which are crucial for long-range operations.

One of the highlights of the exercise was the joint missions conducted by the Mirage and F-18 fighter jets. The two aircraft types have different capabilities and are operated by different nations, but were able to work together seamlessly during the exercise.

The exercise was also an opportunity for ground crews to practice their skills in aircraft maintenance and logistics. They had to work together to ensure that the aircraft were ready to fly at all times and that the necessary equipment and supplies were available.

In addition to the military training, the exercise also provided an opportunity for the participating nations to strengthen their diplomatic and cultural ties. There were several social events during the exercise, including a reception hosted by the British Royal Air Force.

Overall, the Cobra Warrior 2023 exercise was a success, and demonstrated the importance of international cooperation in military operations. It allowed pilots and ground crews to train together, learn from each other, and build stronger relationships that will benefit them in future operations.

RAF Waddington is home to a number of aircraft squadrons, including:

  1. No. 13 Squadron – This squadron operates the MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aerial vehicle, which is used for a variety of missions including intelligence gathering, surveillance, and strike operations.
  2. No. 14 Squadron – This squadron operates the Beech Shadow R1/R2, Be300C
  3. No. 51 & 54 Squadron – This squadron operates the RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft, which is used for electronic intelligence gathering and analysis.

In addition to these squadrons, RAF Waddington also hosts a number of other units, including the Air Warfare Centre, the Joint Electronic Warfare Operational Support Centre, and the Defence Intelligence Fusion Centre. These units work together to provide advanced intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities, and to support military operations around the world.


The Royal Air Force Red Arrows are also based at RAF Waddington and are known for their impressive aerobatic displays at airshows around the world. During an airshow demonstration, the Red Arrows typically perform a series of coordinated maneuvers that showcase their precision and agility, including formations, loops, rolls, and high-speed passes. During our visit to Cobra Warrior the Red Arrows trained several times their new manouvres for the upcoming 2023 show season. The Red Arrows are one of the most popular attractions at airshows around the world, and their displays never fail to impress audiences of all ages.

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