DARK BLADE 2019, the 13th helicopter exercise organised under the umbrella of the European Defence Agency’s Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP), takes place as of today (13 May) at Náměšť airbase in Czech Republic, until 1 June 2019.
A total of 29 air assets (25 helicopters + 4 fixed wing) and some 600 military personnel from six countries - Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, - will participate in this exercise hosted by the Czech Air Force. DARK BLADE 2019 will allow crews to practice operations in various environment replicating the challenging conditions that participant forces are expected to encounter when deploying to a theatre of operation.
The exercise’s main focus will be on enhancing interoperability at the tactical level between helicopter units by using the Composite Air Operations (COMAO) concept in a combined, joint, realistic and challenging environment.
Its main objectives are to:
- enhance tactical interoperability between helicopter units from the participating countries by using the COMAO concept in a combined, joint, realistic and challenging environment and to operate using standard helicopter Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs). The focus will be on Composite Air Operations (COMAO) with live firing and trooping;
- train and practise TTPs with/against fighter jets and electronic warfare means on the ground;
- improve interoperability in training and operational tasks with Ground Forces involvement (NVG operations, low level flying, formation flights, FARP training, gunnery, etc.) in a full spectrum environment.
Participating crews will fly diverse day and night COMAO missions and execute Air Assault (AA), Air Interdiction (AI), Air Transport (AT), Close Air Support (CAS), Personnel Recovery (PR) missions, night flights (with/without NVG) and other missions at tactical level.
They will also train special procedures like marshalling, fast rope and abseiling techniques, Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction (SPIE), pick-up and drop off procedures, air-to-surface live firing (helicopter door gunnery and sniper training).
In addition, DARK BLADE 2019 will provide multiple opportunities to practice multinational training with the Special Operation Forces (e.g. infiltration and exfiltration) and will enhance crews’ skills in using the HEP Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and COMAO planning procedures in the conduct of tactical missions.
Six instructors from Austria, Sweden and the United Kingdom trained in EDA’s Helicopter Tactics Instructors Course (HTIC) accompanied with some Instructors from the Netherlands trained on the Dutch Helicopter Weapon Instructor (HWI) course will jointly form the DARK BLADE 2019 Mentor Team, ready to support the multinational crews during the preparation and execution of the COMAO missions. The EDA’s Chief Instructor (CI) Team will manage and supervise the Mentor Team to ensure consistency and the best possible uptake of lessons learned coming from EDA helicopter activities (HTC, HTIC, COMAO planning and the EW Course) and operational experience.
Distinguished Visitors Day
A Distinguished Visitors Day (DVD) is planned for 28 May 2019 when representatives from all EDA Member States and representatives of Switzerland, Norway and the Republic of Serbia will have the opportunity to attend and observe various live training sessions.
The annual Blade exercise is part of EDA’s wider Helicopter Portfolio aimed at providing Member States with a joint European framework to develop, consolidate and share best practices in order to meet the challenges of flying helicopters in a modern operational environment. Other components of this Portfolio are the annual HEP Symposium, the Helicopter Tactics Courses (HTC), the Helicopter Tactics Instructor Courses (HTIC), and the COMAO Planning and Electronic Warfare (EW) Courses.