Each year the European Personnel Recovery Centre (EPRC) organizes the Air Centre Personnel Recovery Operatives Course (APROC). This year the Dutch Helicopter Commando (DHC) hosted the APROC exercise at their homebase Gilze-Rijen.
Gilze-Rijen Airbase is located between the cities of Breda and Tilburg, both in the province of North Brabant. Gilze-Rijen airbase houses three Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) helicopter types which are divided in three squadrons; 299 squadron which is flying the Boeing CH-47D/F Chinook, 300 squadron which is flying the Aerospatiale AS.532U2 Cougar MK.II and 301 squadron which is flying the Boeing AH-64D Apache. All three squadrons are part of the DHC.
The EPRC organizes this course in order to prepare member states for Personnel Recovery missions. For example downed airmen or to save VIPs from hostile situations. According the EPRC: “The course aims to educate and train Aircrews and Extraction Forces in the implementation of internationally agreed techniques and procedures for Personnel Recovery operations as a member of a combined and joint force contingent”. This year’s course was attended by as much as 500 personnel from the Netherlands, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, Belgium and Sweden, also participating where some USAF personnel. The participating countries operated the following aircraft from Gilze-Rijen Airbase:
- 2x Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon
- 1x Italian Air Force Gulfstream E-550A
- 2x French Air Force Aerospatiale AS.555AN Fennec
- 1x French Navy Eurocopter NH-90NFH Caiman
- 4x Royal Netherlands Air Force Boeing AH-64D Apache
- 1x Royal Netherlands Air Force Aerospatiale AS.532U2 Cougar MK.II
- 2x Royal Netherlands Air Force Boeing CH-47D/F Chinook
- 2x Polish Army Mil Mi-24V Hind
- 1x Spanish Air Force Aerospatiale AS.332B Super Puma
- 2x Royal Navy AgustaWestland Merlin HC.4
- 1x Italian Air Force AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar
- 1x Italian Navy AgustaWestland UH-101A Merlin
- 1x Swedish Air Force Sikorsky Hkp.16a Blackhawk
Each day three separate mission elements were flown. During these missions various dynamic and multinational scenario’s were practiced in order to improve the cooperation between the various nations. To make these missions as realistic as possible an opposing force was also present at each location. The ERPC adds: “The result of this kind of training will be an interoperable force that will be able to provide a viable PR capability for future contingencies”. Each day the mission area’s varied. As the Netherlands is relative small, mission were also flown into Belgium. EPRC concluded “The course aims were achieved by planning and conducting 26 missions in 9 flying days, resulting in more than 140 sorties and 300 flight hours of the participating 20 aircraft”.
VORTEX-images would like to thank the Public Affairs Office from Gilze-Rijen Airbase as well as the Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society for the opportunities given.