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10th EDA Helicopter Training Exercise Programme takes off in Belgium

Exercise BLACK BLADE is hosted by Belgium at Florennes airbase and takes place from the 14th of November to the 2nd of December. Over 400 personnel will take part in this exercise, with a total of 14 air assets from 4 Member States being deployed. This edition marks the 10th helicopter exercise under the umbrella of the EDA Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP).

The European Defence Agency is working to provide Member States with a framework to develop, consolidate and share best practices in order to meet the challenges of flying helicopters in a modern operational environment. In consultation with Member States (MS), several factors were identified which were thought to contribute to the non-employability of helicopters; a lack of training for the crews, a lack of technical equipment for the aircraft, and the challenges of logistic support to deployed operations.

The EDA is helping participating MS address these issues with the training element being the main focus. Exercises such as BLACK BLADE are fundamental to the EU capability development process.


BLACK BLADE marks the 10th helicopter exercise under the umbrella of the Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP). BLACK BLADE is a Special Operations Forces oriented helicopter exercise, focusing on enhancing interoperability at a tactical level in a realistic and challenging environment. Over 400 personnel will take part in this exercise programme. A total of 14 air assets from 4 Member States (13 helicopters from Belgium, Slovenia and Austria and one Falcon aircraft from the UK) will be used.

BLACK BLADE will deliver tactical training, over a three week period, offering participants a unique opportunity to plan and execute missions within a joint combined framework. The seamless coordination and integration of the Belgium Special Operations Ground Forces into individual scenarios for the benefit of training will be one of the specific focuses of the exercise.

Commenting at the start of exercise BLACK BLADE, EDA Chief Executive, Jorge Domecq pointed to the significance of this edition: 

The 10th edition of the Helicopter Training Exercise Programme, comes at a moment when European defence is high on the political agenda. The 10th edition is a milestone for this programme, the EDA and the Member States involved. Exercise BLACK BLADE is European defence cooperation in action. It represents a dynamic and tangible example of what cooperation among the Member States can achieve. It also highlights the importance of joint training as a prerequisite to enhance interoperability and a key enabler to ensure readiness to deploy. A positive step forward for European defence”.

The ultimate goal for BLACK BLADE is to develop and improve immediate output through pooling and sharing, enhance training skills among European countries for flying in different environments, and to train for future European crisis management operations.BLACK BLADE is a real-world example of what can be achieved through European defence cooperation and highlights that at very low cost, immediate operational output can be realised.

New milestone for the EDA

The HEP is one of the EDA’s helicopter training projects and programmes. By enhancing the operating skills of helicopter crews across Europe, the HEP plays a part in increasing the deployable helicopter capability for contingency operations. The exercises focus on individual, environmental and multinational training, increasing interoperability through practical experiences, sharing operational experience and developing common tactics, techniques and procedures. HEP is a ten-year programme, a concrete indication that training together is an integral part of enhancing European capability and interoperability.

EDA Helicopter Training In Numbers

Between 2009 and 2016 : 206 helicopters, 1320 aircrew members and almost 13000 infantry from 19 Member States have deployed to the exercises which were held in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium.

Future Events

A Distinguished Visitors Day (DVD) will be held on November 30th , which the Head of the EDA, High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini will attend.

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