In 1991, on the initiative of JBG-32 bases at Lechfeld AB and SAM Group 43, an exercise particularly for electronic warfare (EW) was established. The aim was to train the aircrews of the airborne Tornado (ECR) weapon system in using their self-protective equipment against ground-based air defence, such as the ROLAND surface-to-air-missile system, in so-called duel-situations. This was to intensify the preparation of aircrews for international high value exercises, called FLAG exercises in NATO-jargon. In 1992, JBG-34 at Memmingen AB, also flying with the Tornado IDS, joined this preparation.
By Frits Jongerman, Henk Nieuwenampsen
The first exercises were still conducted at the Hohenfels range under the name ‘ROTOR’(ROLAND-TORNADO). The great interest of the air wings, the air defence formations and the signal Intel units of Air Force and Army made it necessary, over the course of time, to entrust a command with the responsibility for the exercise. In 1995 “ELITE” was conducted for the first time under the overall responsibility of the German Air Force Tactical Command South, at the Baumholder range.
The first NATO partners to participate in this exercise were the USA (USAFE), France, Italy and Turkey; over the years the duration of ELITE extended to almost two weeks. Since then, it has been the only national electronic warfare exercise of the German Army under overall responsibility of the Air Force, that is conducted regularly.
Due tot the strongly increased number of participants, Heuberg range near Stetten am Kalten Markt was selected for the stationing of the ground systems. The aircraft operated from bases located in southern Germany such as Neuburg, Manching, Lechfeld, Landsberg and Laupheim.
In 2002 Elite saw 10 participants, in 2003 17 from NATO, EU and PfP (Paternship-for-Peace)-nations. After the first participation of Switzerland and Portugal in 2002 and Sweden and the Republic of Slovenia in 2003, Spain and Austria could be welcomed in the 2004. Some 3.000 military personnel, more than 10 ground vehicles and almost 100 aircraft participated in this exercise.
The number of participants considerably increased again from 2005 tot 2008. More than 1.200 individual missions were flown in 2007.