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Exercise Cobra Warrior 2023-2: Aircrew from around the world gather at RAF Waddington

The second round of Exercise Cobra Warrior for 2023 is underway. Held at RAF Waddington, the multinational training scheme brings together aircrews from the RAF, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the United States Air Force and the Italian Air Force.

The first exercise in 2023 took place in March, following on from a successful programme last September. While exact details remain secret, the training is ‘vital’ according to the pilots and aircrews who take part.

The action will be confined to the air base and the skies, but motorists and residents in the area can expect some disruption. Personnel have warned that it might get loud, with F-18s screaming overhead, and the county council has put temporary road closures in place.

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What is Exercise Cobra Warrior 2023-2?

Exercise Cobra Warrior is a biannual training programme and the largest exercise run by the Royal Air Force. Pilots and aircrews participate in simulated combat missions that will challenge their skills and test how well they can work together.

The RAF has trained with several partner nations in the past, including Saudi Arabia, India, and Belgium. Wing Commander Sam Williams, the recently appointed officer commanding of 92 Squadron, said his team works as the training provider for the exercise.

He said the missions that are flown are as ‘realistic as possible and as challenging as possible’. Some pilots will take on the role of ‘blue air’ and others ‘red air,’ pitting the two against each other to simulate combat situations.



Airmen from the Royal Canadian Air Force: Lt. Col. Lawrence, Chief Warrant Officer Hodgson and Sgt Leclerc.
Airmen from the Royal Canadian Air Force: Lt. Col. Lawrence, Chief Warrant Officer Hodgson and Sgt Leclerc.

Upwards of 40 aircraft will be taking part at one time. Wng Cmmdr Wiliams said while it used to be a very air-focused exercise, it was now more ‘air-led’ and integrated different elements.

Lt. Col. Tom Lawrence, with the Royal Canadian Air Force, said: “Having a presence here in Europe demonstrates our commitment to our allies and to NATO. Within that, on the tactic level, is training with our allies.

“It’s a continual challenge, to maintain our interoperability, to ensure we can function together and to learn from each other. Exercises like Cobra Warrior give us that chance.”

Where is Exercise Cobra Warrior taking place?

This round of Exercise Cobra Warrior will be held at RAF Waddington, like its predecessors have been. It will last from Monday, September 4 until Friday, September 29.

RAF Waddington is home to the iconic aerobats the Red Arrows, as well as the intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) system, which is considered to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the RAF. It is roughly five miles south of Lincoln.

The nearest main town to the air base is Sleaford, about 15 miles southeast.



Exercise Cobra Warrior 2023-2 is go.
Exercise Cobra Warrior 2023-2 is go.

Where is the best place to watch the planes?

Though planespotters will not be allowed to enter the base itself, there will be a chance to snap some pics of the various aircraft taking part. A car park opposite the base, just off the A15, will be opened up to the public.

They will be able to park up and then head over to the large grassy verge, where they will have a clearer view of the runways.

When will the planes be in the air?

A spokesperson for the RAF station has said that planes will be in the skies Monday through Friday. The pilots will be flying a variety of missions, though exact flight schedules are kept under wraps for the sake of those taking part.

There will be no flying on Saturdays and Sundays.



Northants planespotter Jim Dunkley at RAF Waddington ahead of Cobra Warrior beginning. He said he loves the "chase" of seeing rare aircraft.
Northants planespotter Jim Dunkley at RAF Waddington ahead of Cobra Warrior beginning. He said he loves the “chase” of seeing rare aircraft.

Will traffic be affected by Exercise Cobra Warrior?

Several traffic restrictions will be in place in the area, including speed limit reductions and road closures. They will be as follows:

  • Bloxholm Lane, which runs between the A15 and the village of Nocton, will be closed in full.

  • The High Dike will be shut off from B1178 White Lane up until the fenced crash barrier outside of the base.

  • All RAF private and unnamed access roads will be closed until the crash barriers on the A15.

  • The speed limit on the A15 Sleaford Road will be lowered to 30mph. According to council guidance, this will be ‘from a point no more than 700m southeast’ of the A15 roundabout to B1178 Mere Road.
  • A 40mph limit will be active from the roundabout to a point ‘no more than 700m southeast’ of the junction with A15 Sleaford Road roundabout. There will be another between B1178 Mere Road and B1178 Tower Lane.

No waiting and no loading orders will be in place on the following stretches of road:

  • Mere Road – full length
  • B1178 White Lane – from B1178 Tower Lane to A607 Grantham Road (including the layby approach to High Dike)
  • A15 Sleaford Road – from A15 Sleaford Rd Roundabout to B1178 Tower Lane junction
  • B1178 Tower Lane – from A15 Sleaford Road and B1178 White Lane
  • A15 Sleaford Road – A15 Sleaford Road Roundabout to B1178 Mere Road

Similarly, an urban clearway order, which prevents drivers from stopping on the side of a road unless they are picking up or dropping off passengers, will be active along the following roads:

  • A15 Sleaford Road – from A15 Sleaford Rd Roundabout to B1178 Tower Lane junction
  • B1178 Tower Lane – from A15 Sleaford Road and B1178 White Lane
  • B1178 White Lane – from B1178 Tower Lane to A607 Grantham Road (including the layby approach to High Dike)
  • Bloxholm Lane – full length
  • Northern Layby High Dike on B1178 White Lane

These temporary measures will be lifted on Friday, September 29, after the exercise concludes. Traffic lights will also be in operation to prevent motorists from driving underneath planes leaving or coming into land.

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