The European Defence Agency’s 7th Helicopter Tactics Symposium, organised under EDA’s Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP), was held in Athens/Greece from 7-9 November. As in previous years, the symposium offered a unique opportunity for European helicopter crews to discuss and share experience in helicopter techniques, tactics and procedures.
The symposium was opened by Brigadier General Iliopoulos (Hellenic Army Aviation Directorate) in the Greek Officers’ Mess in Athens. Over 40 helicopter tactics instructors and experts from 14 countries, with representatives of the Helicopter Tactics Course (HTC), of the Helicopter Tactics Instructor Course (HTIC) and of the Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC) gathered for this annual Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP) event to analyse lessons learned and best practices identified in recent exercises, and to learn about new training opportunities offered by the contributing Member States of the HEP.
Briefings and discussions covered the tactical lessons learned from Dutch helicopter operations in Mali, the Czech Special Operations Aviation Task Unit (SOATU) training, the mentoring of Afghan aircrew by Hungary, the Belgium Mission Planning Process and the environmental training in extreme conditions experienced during exercise Cold Blade 2016 in Ivalo, Finland. In addition, host nation Greece presented its approach to Helicopter Aviation training, fire-fighting and MEDEVAC missions with their CH-47D Chinook helicopters.
The presentations were followed by panel discussions for both attack and support helicopter operators; they brought a useful insight into the latest developments in night vision goggles training, Electronic Warfare, landing zone tactics, use of sensors and technologies applied in Degraded Visual Environments, currency and proficiency challenges and helicopter self-defence aids used by the Member States. The discussions triggered new proposals for updating the HEP Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) - the capstone tactics manual for multinational helicopter operations.
The academic sessions were followed by operational and planning discussions with a view to updating the HEP SOP, the HEP, HTC and the HTIC programmes as well as the NATO ATP-49. The aims and objectives of the upcoming HEP exercises were presented in detail, including Black Blade 2016 in Belgium (with a focus on helicopters and Special Operations Forces exercise) and Fire Blade 2017 in Hungary (helicopter live-firing and urban operations).
The next HEP event, Exercise BLACK BLADE 2016, starts today (14 November) at Florennes Airbase in Belgium and will last until 2 December.