By Wim Das, Kees Otten | September 25, 2017
The European Defence Agency organized a helicopter exercise this year, Fire Blade 2017. The 11th of the series in the agency’s Helicopter Exercise Programme, Fire Blade took place in Hungary at Papa Airbase May 1 to 12, 2017.
The exercise featured live firing exercises among five member states, including 14 helicopters and 500 personnel. Member states included Austria, Germany, Belgium, Hungary and Slovenia. Others in observance were personnel from Czech Republic, U.K., Sweden and the Netherlands. For the first time, jet fighters participated (two JAS 39 Gripens with the Hungarian Air Force).
Participants aim to incorporate greater tactical and warfare capabilities, with interoperability — like all of these exercises — being the ultimate goal.
Because these exercises require the exchange of information in one common language, English, many participants find it useful to practice in these scenarios to prepare for a potential real-life situation.
Because of this language barrier, the EDA offered an English language course two weeks before the exercise.
Another barrier is the member states’ differences in equipage on its aircraft.
The live firing exercises were performed day and night. The media had been privy to observing the Hungarian Air Force Mi-17’s four gunners shooting continuous flying rounds, finishing with 57-mm S-5 rockets from UB-32A-57 rocket pods.
All participating units shot about 40,000 bullets and rockets.
In one scenario, Belgian A109s with the Air Mission Commander (AMC) and with the deputy AMC circled around with machineguns while an Austrian Black Hawk took on a “blocking position” to a terrorist jeep. Austrian and Slovenian Bell Helicipters and a Hungarian Mi-8 put soldiers on the ground — a Slovenian Cougar sat nearby in reserve. The helicopters pulled back with the T-72 Soviet-designed tanker pulling in. Ground forces created a smoke screen and then called in a Gripen fighter jet for close air support, taking out the tank with precision weapons. The helicopters then returned for the extraction phase, including capturing the simulated terrorists and recovering personnel and supplies.
The next exercise, Hot Blade, will be held June 2018 at Obar Airbase in Portugal.