Some 60 helicopter tactics specialists from 14 EDA Member States as well as representatives of the EDA Helicopter Chief Instructor Team, the Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC), the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), the Austrian Air Force Command and the Austrian Defence Industry met early this month in Salzburg for the 9th Helicopter Tactics Symposium, organised under the EDA’s Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP). It followed the successful completion, end of September in Sweden, of the 6th EDA Helicopter Tactics Instructor Course (HTIC).This annual event proved once more to be a unique occasion for European helicopter crews to discuss and share expertise and best practices related to helicopter tactics and to learn about training opportunities under EDA’s Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP).
One part of the symposium was devoted to drawing the lessons learned from recent EDA helicopter exercises, such as ‘Hot Blade 18’ (held at Beja Air Base No 11, Portugal, in May 2018), from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), where German and Belgian NH90 helicopters were integrated in one detachment, as well as the Czech Republic’s experience in preparing for the EU battle group.
Symposium attendees also received detailed information on how military helicopter training and simulator training is done in the different Member States with briefings provided by Austria, Belgium, Greece and Germany.
A new topic on the annual EDA Helicopter Tactics Symposium were the training and use of attack helicopters by different European countries. Briefings were delivered by specialists from Germany (EC665 Tiger), Greece (AH-64 Apache), Hungary (Mi 24) and Italy (A-129 Mangusta). The debate resulted in a concrete proposal to add a completely new chapter on Attack Helicopter Tactics in the HEP Standard Operating Procedures (HEP SOP), the capstone tactics’ manual for multinational European helicopter operations.
Industry was also present during the symposium by means of a small exhibition including various new technologies and briefings on spatial disorientation and night vision goggle (NVG) training, as well as mission planning tools.
Looking ahead, symposium participants were briefed on upcoming HEP exercises, including Dark Blade 2019 (to be held in the Czech Republic) and Swift Blade 2020 (to be held in the BENELUX), which will focus on national and multinational training, including the performance of Joint and Combined Composite Air Operations (COMAO) in demanding environmental conditions and high threat scenarios.
In the meantime, EDA keeps working on improving European helicopter interoperability through its Helicopter Tactics Instructor Courses (HTIC) the 6th of which was completed on 30 September after eight weeks of intensive training performed in Linton on Ouse RAF base (UK) and in Arvidsjaur Airport in Northern Sweden. With trainees from Sweden, Austria, Norway and the UK (representing both the Support Helicopter and the Attack Helicopter communities), the course offered a unique opportunity to foster operational interoperability and cooperation, whilst conducting advanced tactical flying training.
Now in its 6th year, the HTIC continues to deliver high-end flying training in Electronic Warfare, Tactical Formation and Evasion Training and other advanced helicopter operations. During the first year, all the tactical skills are taught in the classroom, on the simulator and, eventually, during the live flying phase. During the second year, Bronze trainees begin a two-year programme to reach Silver and Gold qualifications, confirming their suitability for taking on the role of instructors.
The complexity of the courses increases gradually over time until the final week, when trainees are expected to carry out complex Composite Air Operation (COMAO) tasks against Electronic Warfare Ground-Based Air Defence Systems, Fast-Jet aggressors and a whole range of low-tech weapon systems.
Five Tactics Instructors graduated from this year’s course whereas seven trainees are now eligible to complete the Silver Level in the coming years. As usually, the HTIC was supported by a range of units including 100 Sqn Hawks from the UK, Gripens from the Swedish Air Force, EW systems from Polygone in Germany, as well as staff from 8 Sqn, 606 Sqn, 600 Sqn, Joint Helicopter Command and the Swedish Air Force, and Tactics Instructors from Austria, Germany, Sweden and the UK.
The 6th HTIC was particular as the Chief Instructor role is now being ensured by a team of 4 experienced instructors from Austria, Germany, Sweden and the UK, who will continue to support the entire EDA helicopter training programme..
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