Hot Blade 2014, the seventh helicopter exercise organised by the European Defence Agency, was formally closed on 30 July in Ovar airbase, Portugal. All training aims were met and the event was praised by senior national representatives.
At exercise close, a total of 827 hours had been flown on 362 aircraft sorties. Twenty-five helicopters from six different nations took part in Hot Blade 2014 from 16-30 July. “All training aims were met with the assistance of a small team of highly qualified tactics instructors coming from the sister HTIC programme”, Andy Gray, EDA Helicopters Programme Manager, points out.
The largest helicopter exercise organised this year in Europe, Hot Blade 2014 has allowed participating crews to qualify as COMAO (Combined Air Operations) lead and conduct joint and combined air assault missions (with Portuguese, German and Dutch ground troops operating together in mixed units), while at the same time providing individual training with nations qualifying their pilots in dust landings, night vision operations and fighter evasion.
Expressed in a “hot wash-up” meeting, the immediate feedback from the exercise was extremely positive. Senior national representatives confirmed that the experience of working together with other nations and practicing large-scale joint and combined missions just could not have been achieved by working alone. They agreed that these exercises are truly enhancing the helicopter capability within Europe.
“Over the last three years, the professionalism, enthusiasm and friendliness of our hosts has allowed the exercise to develop and grow”, adds Andy Gray, reflecting on Portugal’s major contribution to the success of EDA's Helicopter Exercise Programme. Next year’s event, called “Italian Blade”, will take place in June 2015 in Viterbo airbase, about 80 kilometres north of Rome.
The European Defence Agency’s efforts in the field of helicopter capabilities also include the Helicopters Tactics Course (HTC), the Helicopter Tactics Instructor Course (HTIC), the OELC (Operational English Language Course) and the Basic Helicopter Flying Training (BHFT) initiative.
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. The Helicopter Exercise Programme arrangement has been signed by twelve Member States in November 2012 for a period of ten years. Future editions are expected to take place in Italy and Finland.