408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, based at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton but under the command of 1 Wing Kingston, Ont., took part in Exercise Maple Strike at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright from April 15 to 27.
Ex Maple Strike allowed 408 Tac Hel Sqn to participate as an asset for joint tactical air controller (JTAC) training. The squadron sent two CH-146 Griffon helicopters with three crews which included two door gunners per aircraft. The helicopters flew two missions per day in formation, providing fire power from the air. Twice each week the mission occurred at night, which gave the crews the unique opportunity to train with live rounds using night-vision goggles.
The purpose of the flights each day was to practice coordinating fire from the helicopter to locations designated by the JTACs on the ground. The JTAC would communicate the mission to the helicopters over the radio and the pilot would use the information to formulate a plan of attack. After the JTAC had confirmed that the pilot had the target in sight, the pilot would then verbally guide their door gunners to the location of the target.
Ex Maple Strike allowed 408 Tac Hel Sqn to qualify or re-qualify pilots on close combat attack missions while also qualifying flight engineers as door gunners on the CH-146 Griffon.
During the two-week exercise pilots who were not currently flying in the mission were given the chance to see the operation from the ground. They spent the mission on the hill where the JTACs were situated and saw it all play out from the point of view of a solider on the ground. While these pilots observed from the ground, JTACs were given rides in the CH-146 Griffons to allow them the same opportunity to see the mission from the other point of view.
With the multiple qualifications achieved, and the ground experience provided, it was a very productive two-week exercise for 408 Tac Hel Sqn.
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