Text & Pictures: Luc Dujardin  © sbap 2012

It could be said that September may be considered as a busy month, regarding the military activity in Belgium. First of all, there is a major helicopter exercise (Green Blade) but also a Special Operations Force training (Pegasus) and a training exercise for Forward Air Controllers (Poppy 04).
Spread over three weeks, the major military exercise in the country is Green Blade 2012. This is the latest exercise organized by the European Defense Agency’s Helicopter Program. Previous exercises took place in France (Gap 2009), Spain (Azor 2010), Italy (It Call 2011) and Portugal (Hot Blade 2012). At this time, those exercises together have involved a total of 123 helicopters and 227 air crews. Green Blade is the latest exercise in 2012, but there are programs scheduled until 2022.
Green Blade is hosted by the Belgian Air Component and runs from September 17th till October 5th. Its main goal is the improvement of deployability in a multinational context. This exercise is also a development of the Pooling & Sharing defence policy as it was stated by the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Staff in July (see our SBAP article on Belgian National Day 2012).
Green Blade is combined with Pegasus and is a big international military event with participating forces coming from many NATO countries integrated into the European Defense Agency. This organisation, depending on the Council of the European Union, works to foster European defense cooperation. Politicians and technicians, or experts are working together to save money and develop the defense capabilities of UE countries. So a Helicopter Training Program has been created, with Helicopter Tactic Course (in the UK), a tactical air transport exercise was recently held in Spain. Many other defense topics are analized and developed as joint European programs (air-to-air refueling, maritime surveillance networking, future military satellite communications, and so on).

15 helicopters coming from Belgium (5 x A-109AB call sign “Tiger”), Germany (6 x UH-1D call sign “Husky”) and Italy (2 x A-129 call sign “Cobra” + 2 x CH-47 call sign “Beast”) have been deployed at Kleine-Brogel air base. At the same time, the ground forces are made out of 550 personnel from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain. Even Canadian forces are involved in Pegasus.
Around 65 missions with increasing complexity have been planned and helicopters have to perform various scenarios. They are including insertion/extraction, direct action, personnel recovery, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance that are typical special operations missions. More classical helicopter missions such as air mobility, gun firing, recce and medevac flights have also been performed. Helicopters have flown by day and by night with night vision goggles in aeras in North and Southeast of Belgium. They have flown alone or in multiship flight configuration in a realistic battle field environment provided by other air assets. Helicopters were the main actors of Green Blade, but AWACS, F-16, C-130 or B-Hunter UAV have been integrated in the different missions. The mission objectives were located in various areas in Flanders, as well in Wallony, as requested by the scenario (Antwerp Harbour, Arendonk, Aspurlange, Brasschaat, Broechem, Brustem, Eben-Emael, Embourg, Gierle, Kleine-Brogel, Lessive, Marche-en-Famenne, Sovet and Weelde).

On October 2, a Distinguished Visitors Day (DVD) was planned. This gave also the opportunity to the media to see Green Blade 2012 live in action. We went to Kleine-Brogel air base where, first of all, a briefing was given with introductive speeches of Pieter De Crem, Belgian Minister of Defense, Jean-Marie Halsdorf, Minister of Defense of Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and Claude-France Arnould, Chief Executive of the European Defense Agency. After that, Lt Col Avi Danny Vandenberk, Green Blade CO, and Lt Col Tom Bilo, Pegasus CO, have explained the stakes of such a joint exercise. All of them insisted on the European military collaboration as the only option to get efficient military responses in the current international political and economical context. Exercises as Green Blade are also a way to create an international community, to make connections between professionals, to increase skills and mutual understanding, as well to forge trust or form friendship relations.

After this briefing, we moved to the well known Hechtel’s aeroclub Sanicole where Special Forces had deployed several pieces of equipment in static exposition. Last, but not least, the event of the day was the helicopter and special forces live demo at Leopoldsburg camp. The scenario was the attack of an isolated house, hide-out of the leader of a terrorist group. This was the High Value Target of the mission. Special forces and helicopters gave an impressive demonstration of their skills. First, A-129 attack helicopters have neutralized the terrorists’ pick-up, which was equipped with a mounted machine gun. Then CH-47 dropped a diversion force by fast rope and an assault force was inserted by two UH-1D coming fast and low above the trees. After having captured the insurgent leader, the assault force was extracted. One A-109 medevac had to be deployed under escort by another A-109 with machine gun, to pick-up the only (virtual) wounded soldier. This demonstrates the high coordination of various assets and forces.

Material exhibition

Arrival of the task force at Sanicole

Agusta A-129 "Mangusta"

Bell UH-1D
Operation of the day against a terrorist nest
Despite of the poor weather condition, we would like to acknowledge all the Comopsair-IPR team for their usual kindness and efficiency.

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