The European Defence Agency (EDA) is about to begin assessing submissions made by organizations wishing to manage a two-year Interim Synthetic helicopter Tactics course. The overall contract will be worth €3-4 million (approximately $4.1 to 5.4 million) with the location to be determined at single fixed venue within a contributing member state. Proposals were to have been received by March 31, 2010 and a decision is expected by the end of autumn.
With several of the EDA’s member states having committed to deployed operations over the next two years, there is a requirement among some to have their training and effectiveness increased above existing national standards. This would be provided through a series of courses over two years delivering dedicated tuition from operationally experience qualified helicopter instructors (QHIs).
The EDA’s objective is for 10 courses to run per annum, with four helicopter crews per four-week course. Each crew would comprise up to four people (depending on the type of helicopter). Training would be synthetic-based with no ‘live’ elements, but the course and training media would have to be reconfigurable depending on the helicopter type familiar to each crew. It is expected that the synthetic training will be reconfigurable between Mi-17/171 aircraft, Super Puma/Cougars and perhaps even AgustaWestland AW109s. To date, member nations involved in the course include the UK, Luxemburg, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovenia and Estonia.
Planning for an EDA-sponsored exercise that will take place in Spain from June 9-26 this year is gathering pace. The exercise will involve helicopter forces from the following member states: UK, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia and the host, Spain. Andrew Gray, the EDA’s helicopter project officer, has led initial planning. The EDA is looking to run two types of ‘live’ training per year. The first Spanish exercise will focus on operating in environmental ‘hot and high’ conditions and will test multinational operating capabilities in day/night scenarios. A second exercise to be held later in the year will focus on developing interoperability through common and understandable Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs). “Multinational training is valuable to all member nations,” says Gray. “Performance differences between three types of attack helicopters operating in Afghanistan for example—the Italian A129 Mangusta, the British Apache Longbow and the French Tiger—will all have different escort and ground support methods. Support helicopter crews when operating in coalition should be aware of the differences.”
Gray also intends for a tactical symposium over two days, again bringing different multinational levels of operators together to develop best practices as well as shortcuts to learning. Luxembourg, while light on actual force commitment into NATO tasks, has been a particularly good financial supporter of the aims of the European Defence Agency’s helicopter development plans. The UK has also contributed English language courses for foreign nationals. The EDA was founded in July 2004 to assist member states in improving their European defence capabilities.