AN RAF exercise has meant that foreign jets have been spotted flying in Cumbrian skies.

The Swiss Air Force has been training with British and US counterparts across the North of England.

Hosted at RAF Leeming, Exercise YORKNITE plays a crucial role in the Swiss Air Force training calendar – enabling the country’s F-18 Hornet pilots to achieve important day and night-flying whilst testing their advanced skills alongside RAF and USAF counterparts.

Lt Col Aldo Wicki, Detachment Commander, said: “When it comes to advanced training you need highly qualified assets to train with and against.

"Our Air Force is too small to set up the assets so the opportunities in the UK are just fabulous – working with operationally experienced units from the Royal Air Force, or the US Air Force in Europe.

“The second detachment will be completely different, because it includes the young pilots.

"Their challenge will be not only to stick precisely and correctly to a rules, regulations and procedures, but also successfully do the basic exercises at night in the training sectors over the dark, black sea at night."

Now in its third year at the North Yorkshire base, YORKNITE 2021 has encompassed three elements.

An initial contingent of 20 aircrew have been using the exercise to hone advanced skills, whilst the second have been conducting night flying training over the sea.

For the first time, the Swiss detachment included Cougar helicopters, using time in the UK to train at the Electronics Warfare Tactics facility at RAF Spadeadam.

A veteran of YORKNITE, Lt Col Wicki still gets immense satisfaction from seeing how much aircrew can develop their skills and confidence within a short space of time.

He said: “The difference between how my aircrew arrive – physically and mentally – stepping into YORKNITE activities, and then seeing the same lunch at the end of this detachment. It’s just fantastic how they progress.

"These are the moments I adore doing this job, being a detachment commander. You can lead people to achieve their targets and return home happy and at a proficient level. This is one of the most privileged jobs.”