Military, Public Service, Training

Spanish Scenarios Test Personnel Recovery Techniques

By By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor | February 1, 2012

Spanish Air Force AS332B behind one of the international extraction forces.

The fifth gathering of European international military aircrews that were seeking to improve their knowledge and skills in personnel recovery techniques met at the Albacete airbase in Spain from October 14-26, 2011 under the auspices of the European Air Group.

This was the annual Combined Joint Personnel Recovery Standardization course (CJPRSC), formally known as the Combined Joint Combat Search and Rescue course (CJCSAR), organized under the direction of the EAG’s Lt. Col. Uwe Schleimer (JPR-1), based at RAF High Wycombe in the UK. This was Schleimer’s fourth course in as many years, although he was deputy commander the first time around. The basis for the course actually goes back to 2002-2006 with the VOLCANEX/CSAR exercises.


The concept behind the annual CJPRSC is to provide individual training for those with responsibility for personnel recovery tasks.

It trains and tests their knowledge and proficiency in planning and executing PR missions “in a non permissive, multinational environment embedded in a COMAO [Composite Air Operation], using operational documents.”

A pair of Spanish Air Force Super Pumas acting as recovery vehicles.

The structure of the CJPRSC “is virtually unchanged since last year,” said Schleimer, adding that, “the only real difference was that the course was more operator-oriented and a little more away from the theoretical.” Most of the participants are new to the course although a good number of the instructors and directors return to assist with instruction.

The course has matured over the years and although some of the participants are knowledgeable in its requirements, most have no experience. Which is a good balance, explained Schleimer.

Those on the course get to know tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) and identify common operating principals instead of using their own standard operating procedures (SOPs) and standing SPINS (Special Instructions).

EAG held the initial planning meeting at its RAF High Wycombe headquarters in January 2011, followed by a further planning meeting at the airbase in Spain during June. The Program of Instruction (PoI) is based around four days of theoretical instruction and seven days of flying sorties. During the flying phase, Schleimer revealed that 90 percent of the scheduled sorties took place. Once again however, as in recent years, no night flying exercises were possible due to limited residual conditions and the two night missions became day missions instead.

The program calls for the aircraft present to be divided into two PR Task Force groups, with each group receiving their own separate task. Forward Air Refuelling Points (FARPS) were once again used although the Spanish conditions led to some unscheduled ‘brownout’ training.

Once again the course attracted a good international attendance with 13 nations sending a total of 319 personnel and 17 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. The main nations contributing forces and benefiting from the CJPRSC training were Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the United States.

Personnel from six other nations contributed to support and observer roles.

“The Spanish forces should be recognized for the great effort that they put into making this CJPRSC one of the best with 10 fixed-wing sorties per day. There was also the chance to use fast jet pilots as on scene commanders—something that rarely happens in exercise but can happen operationally,” explained Lt. Col. Schleimer.

(Above) Italian Navy EH101 on the ground prior to takeoff with an extraction force. (Bottom) The CJPRSC 2011 group photo at the Tactical Leadership Program (TLP) facilities at Albacete Air Base, Spain.

Although a fixed-wing NATO E-3A Sentry airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft wasn’t available, the role was performed by an EH 101 C2 from the Italian Navy.

Enemy ground forces were provided by the Spanish Military Police with the Swedish, Polish, French and Italian militaries provided the extraction forces.

“Today we are not looking at high-intensity warfare or home country defense,” said Schleimer.

“Now what is more usual is expeditionary warfare. We have a moral obligation to try and get our people back.”

The amount of financial investment that countries make in training and qualifying their flying personnel makes them expensive assets. In the current difficult financial climate, cuts to training will mean that individuals will be harder and costlier to replace in the future, Schliemer stated.

Overall the course achieved its training objectives, despite the lack of night flying. As Schleimer outlined in his debriefing document, “The shift in focus away from pure CSAR missions towards the wider scope of Personnel Recovery operations continues to prove beneficial to tailor the course objectives towards real time requirements.”

The ultimate lessons learned by the teams that participate in the CJPRSC will hopefully be taken away and used when they are called upon to plan and execute real PR missions in a non-permissive multinational scenario operating within a Combined Air Operation (COMAO).

The next European Air Group CJPRSC training course will be held later this year. It is scheduled to run from October 8 through Oct. 26, 2012 in the Schönewalde/Holzdorf region in Germany.

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