For the third year in a row, Portugal is hosting the Hot Blade helicopter exercise in Ovar airbase, near Porto. Supported by the European Defence Agency, this event is attended by 25 helicopters and about 3.000 military personnel for two weeks of intense cooperative training between the six participating Member States.
Organised as part of the European Defence Agency’s Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP), Hot Blade 2014 is hosted by the Portuguese Air Force for the third time since 2012. Ovar airbase, located 40 kilometers south of Porto, is now home of 25 helicopters and their crews for the two weeks of the exercise, with a total of 3.000 military personnel directly involved in the event.
Six European countries have brought their rotary-wing aircraft to Ovar for the event: Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Observers from Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Brazil and NATO Special Operation Forces Headquarters (NSHQ) will also attend.
The aim of Hot Blade 2014 is to increase interoperability between participating Member States while at the same time allowing crews to train in a hot, high and dusty environment similar to the one they might encounter on the battlefield. Multiple sorties will be flown each day with increasingly complex tactical scenarios and missions, ranging from special operations aviation to close air support or medical evacuation.
Hot Blade 2014 is the seventh exercise supported by EDA under the umbrella of the Helicopter Exercise Programme. The fact that these events are now integrated into the nations’ training syllabus is a testimony to their success and relevance for European operators. The Agency is conducting similar efforts in the field of tactical air transport and air-to-air refueling, respectively with the EATT (European Air Transport Training) and EART (European Air Refueling Training) series of exercises.
The European Defence Agency’s Helicopter Exercise Programme is part of the wider Helicopter Training Programme (HTP) initiative. This also includes the Helicopters Tactics Course (HTC), the Helicopter Tactics Instructor Course (HTIC), the OELC (Operational English Language Course), the DisSim CCD (Distributed Simulation Capability Concept Demonstrator) and the Basic Helicopter Flying Training (BHFT) initiative. These projects are managed by EDA’s Cooperation, Planning & Support Directorate, in which a new dedicated Education & Training unit has recently been established.
The first EDA-supported multinational helicopter exercise took place in Gap (France) in March 2009. It has since been followed by six subsequent exercises of various scope and size, held in Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain.