The EDA Steering Board approved end of August the way ahead for the new Multinational Helicopter Training Centre (MHTC) to be established in Sintra, Portugal. The European Defence (EDA) together with 18 of its Member States will now develop the technical arrangement (TA) for the opening of this new advanced tactical helicopter training facility by the end of 2022.
Approval for the centre marks the latest milestone in a long line of important helicopter projects managed by the Agency since 2009. EDA currently hosts three collaborative helicopter programmes, which fill a helicopter training capability gap in Europe and are a key component of operational capacity building. The three programmes are aimed at improving European interoperability and increasing standardisation of helicopter aircrews through the adoption of common training activities and the use of common Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs). All tactics are developed refined and tested before being included in the Helicopter Exercise Programme Standard Operating Procedures (HEP SOP).
The Agency’s helicopter work includes a Helicopter Tactics Course (HTC) and a Helicopter Tactics Instructors Course (HTIC). The first project focusses on improving the tactical ability of crews through an integrated training course of classroom and simulator instruction that is currently conducted at RAF Linton-on-Ouse in the United Kingdom. The HTC provides a solid foundation for whole crew training and was later developed into the Helicopter Tactics Instructors Course, which takes experienced aircrew and further develops their skills in a “Train the Trainer” course, delivering advanced helicopter tactics and the Helicopter Tactics Instructor (HTI) qualification. The HTIC includes a ground phase delivered in the UK, and a live flying element conducted in Sweden.
Helicopter Exercise Programme
The third element of EDA’s helicopter activities is the Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP) which brings together multinational helicopter crews and an array of assets (fixed wing, Electronic Warfare, ground troops, Special Forces, etc) in an annual multinational training exercise covering the performance of complex missions in demanding environmental areas. The exercises are conducted under the BLADE banner. The next exercise will be SWIFT BLADE, to be delivered in Belgium and the Netherlands in April 2020.
However, EDA does not have the vocation to be a long-term training provider, but rather a catalyst for cooperative training. The Agency launches initiatives that can provide added value to Member States and when these are consolidated and have reached a sufficient level of maturity, the Agency encourages Member States or multinational organisations to take over the administrative and organisational responsibility of the activities, allowing the EDA to free-up resources and focus on developing new initiatives.
Multinational Helicopter Training Centre
EDA has been successfully managing the three helicopter programmes for over a decade, and during the next five year period, they will progressively be transferred outside EDA to the future Multinational Helicopter Training Centre (MHTC).
The MHTC will consist of office space for the technical, administrative and training delivery staff, simulator facilities and a dedicated accommodation block. In addition, it will also develop a more coordinated approach to European helicopter training and will try to harmonise national approaches and drive synergies with NATO doctrine.
The concept development phase of the project was concluded in January 2019 and has now gained ministerial approval to develop the legally binding Technical Arrangement (TA), which will define the objectives, benefits, roles and capabilities of the centre together with agreement on budget and manpower allocation. The first MHTC project team meeting will be held at EDA in September with the signature of the Technical Arrangement targeted for the end of 2020.