|An Italian army AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta flies cover for paratroopers during Italian Blade. Photo courtesy of Kees Otten and Wim Das/Dutch Aviation Media
The European Defence Agency’s Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP) on July 3 concluded a two-week multinational exercise in which more than 1,000 personnel and 30 helicopters took part.
Conducted in Viterbo, about 40 miles north-northwest of Rome, Italian Blade 2015 was the largest training of its kind organized in Europe this year, the agency said. Participating nations included Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K., Slovenia and Sweden.
Over the course of the exercise, participants flew 201 missions and 445 sorties, accumulating a total of 618 flight hours. Missions of increasing complexity were conducted, with scenarios including air assault, close air support, combat search and rescue, and medical evacuation.
“Italy has provided great support to this year’s HEP exercise as host nation”, Andrew Gray, EDA’s helicopter program manager, said. To date, more than 350 crews and 200 helicopters have taken part in EDA-developed HEP exercises.