More than 500 troops, 18 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and 140 sorties with more than 300 flight hours — These stats sum up the outcome of the Air Centric Personnel Recovery Operatives Course (APROC) that occurred earlier this month with the Defense Helicopter Command of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
The exercise was borne from a European Air Group effort from 2002 to 2006 to conduct exercises known as Volcanex, with a heavy focus on combat search and rescue. In 2013, the EAG created a separate multinational hub for personnel recovery expertise known as the European Personnel Recovery Center (EPRC). The center reached initial operational capability in July 2015.
The EPRC provides a course to educate and train aircrews and extraction forces in the implementation of internationally agreed upon techniques and procedures for personnel recovery operations as a member of a combined and joint force contingent.
The primary objective for the training exercise focuses on the recovery of civilian and military personnel in a hostile or non-permissive environment. Five EPRC members participated: France, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Spain. Helicopters were supplied from Poland and Sweden.
“Experienced pilots are trained in the role of rescue mission commander, allowing them to learn to lead the planning and the execution of complex personnel recovery missions, to provide briefings and debriefings regarding the missions to the benefit of the task forces employed and the commanders,” said Dutch Lt. Col. Bart Holewijn, the course director. “Finally, among other objectives, the course also aims at educating the extraction forces to the application of the standards envisaged for the recovery of the isolated personnel and to provide the medical assistance required.”
The Netherlands participated with to Boeing AH-64D Apaches, a Boeing CH-47D Chinook, an Airbus Helicopters AS532 Cougar and two Lockheed Martin F-16s from Volkel Air Base. Italy contributed two Eurofighter F-2000s, a Gulfstream E-550A, two Merlins, a Leonardo HH-101A Caesar from its air force and a UH-101A from its navy. The Royal Navy sent two 845 NAS. Poland sent two Mi-24s and Swedish sent an HKP-16A(Black Hawk).
The course enables participants to train in the personnel recovery mission profile in a realistic and international environment that uses the processes and structures found in international operations.
The next of such exercises will be held in Zaragoza, Spain.