50 helicopter tactics specialists from twelve EDA participating Member States, as well as representatives of the Helicopter Tactics Instructors Course (HTIC), the Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC), the Multinational Aviation Training Centre (MATC) and the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) met recently in Rijen, the Netherlands, for the 8th Helicopter Tactics Symposium, organised under the EDA’s Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP).
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 new training opportunities under the HEP programme.
A central part of the symposium was devoted to drawing the tactical lessons from recent EDA helicopter exercises, such as ‘Black Blade 16’ (held at Florennes Air Base, Belgium, in November 2016) and ‘Fire Blade 17’ at Papa Airbase in Hungary (May 2017). Other lessons learnt sessions covered examples of counter surface-to-air fire tactics, urban operations, a recent Slovenian MEDEVAC operation, a Czech helicopter door gunner pre-deployment training and the introduction of special operation forces’ helicopters in Germany.
Symposium attendees also received a detailed presentation on the Dutch helicopter aviation training system and discussed various topics related to helicopter techniques, tactics and procedures, including combined tactical operations in which transport helicopters are escorted by attack helicopters during missions abroad. The debate resulted in new concrete proposals for updating the HEP Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the capstone tactics manual for multinational helicopter operations.
Looking ahead, symposium participants were briefed on upcoming HEP exercises, including Hot Blade 2018 (to be held in Portugal) which will focus on helicopter Composite Air Operations (COMAO) missions in hot, high-altitude and dusty conditions with trooping, live firing and MEDEVAC flights. In 2019, the annual HEP exercise will take place in the Czech Republic under the label ‘Dark Blade’.