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DHC Exercise Joint Falcon; Oirschotse Heide, April 1, 2016

An Integration Exercise of the Dutch DHC; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

During the exercise Joint Falcon four days of intensive training by the army units of 11 Airmobile Brigade and the helicopters of the Defense Helicopter Command was executed. The exercise would take place on the terrain of the former airbase of the Peel and military training area at the Oirschotse Heide near Eindhoven.

The integration exercise Joint Falcon took place in the week of March 29 until April 1, 2016. During this exercise are units of the Army of the 11 Airmobile Brigade (11 Luchtmobiele Brigade, 11th LMB) used in conjunction with the helicopter units of the Defense Helicopter command (Defensie Helikopter Commando, DHC) from Gilze-Rijen. During the exercise Joint Falcon cooperation between the units of the Dutch Army and the Dutch Air Force is trained and if necessary improved. This training concerns cooperation in all areas, both in preparation for actual deployment as the deployment itself. The exercise will be executed by one of the companies of the 11th LMB. The DHC will participate during this exercise with two AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, two CH-47D/F Chinook transport helicopters and two AS532U2 Cougar transport helicopters. By using the 11th LMB in collaboration with the DHC helicopters the units are able to carry out quick actions deep into enemy territory. In the scenario of the exercise Joint Falcon, the airmobile troops are dropped into enemy territory with Chinook and Cougar transport helicopters under the cover of Apache helicopters. The helicopters would fly daily from Gilze-Rijen. The helicopters would fly in the vicinity of the Lieutenant General Best barracks in Vredepeel on March 29 and 30. On March 31 and April 1, the exercise will move to the Oirschotse Heide which is also known as the GLV-V (Gebied Laagvliegen V) (Low Flying Area 5).

The 11th Airmobile Brigade is a rapidly deployable light infantry combat unit. Soldiers of the 11th LMB are usually recognizable by the distinctive red beret which they wear. The 11th LMB comprises a total of 4,500 military personnel. The unit is stationed at two locations, namely the Orange barracks in Schaarsbergen and Johan Willem Friso barracks in Assen. The brigade is within 7 to 20 days worldwide operational for the defense of its own territory, for providing assistance to allies, for the protection of international law, for disaster relief and for humanitarian aid. In addition, the brigade is

during crisis situations in the Netherlands the first contact for the civilian authorities in Zuid Holland, Gelderland and the Amsterdam region. The Airmobile troops are able to move on foot, with light vehicles and by helicopters or transport planes. There are different types of air maneuver actions. The first variant is the Air Assault. This strategy includes an offensive operation, for example to form a bridgehead deep into enemy territory. It is used in a combination of firepower, speed and the surprise element. Attack helicopters and transport helicopters and infantry troops are continuously monitored during an operation and are hereby dependent on each other. The second air maneuver method is Air Mechanized. Apache helicopters play the main role in these operations. Airmobile military support the operation from the ground by designating targets. The third tactic is Airmobile and Airborne. Helicopters are carrying soldiers to and from the area of operation during Airmobile Operations. During Airborne Operations soldiers will jump with parachutes from helicopters or airplanes.

The Air Assault (AASLT) is the hardest and most intensive form of air maneuver and is the specialty of the 11th LMB. The name of the 11th LMB has therefore regularly the abbreviation AASLT added in its designation. Also the abbreviation 'December 7’ is included in this name and refers to the date of formation of the original First Division which is nowadays disbanded. The brigade is carrying the tradition of this division in this way. Also during the exercise Joint Falcon the Air Assault method was used in the designated landing zones. The helicopters of the DHC would also apply this tactic at the Oirschotse Heide. In the silence of the morning on Friday, April 1, some enemy vehicles were driving around on the edge of the GLV-V. Also in the woods next to the heath were several enemy units hidden. The silence on the heath was disturbed when two Apache helicopters from Gilze-Rijen of the no 301 Squadron appeared. They had spotted the enemy units quickly. The helicopters would take rapidly position and were stalking the enemy troops carefully at low altitude just above the treetops. The Apaches were scouts which had to explore the landing zone. Their mission was to clear the LZ from enemy air defenses. Their move was followed by an intensive firefight between the enemy and the helicopters; the Apaches neutralized several vehicles. The Apaches had secured the site within a few minutes. The presence of the helicopters would ensure that present enemies in the woods were hiding.

A cougar and two Chinooks appeared and the helicopters made a quick landing on the terrain. The location is not large and therefore the skills of the pilots and loadmasters were needed to land three heavy transport helicopters on this small strip. Soldiers of the 11th LMB left the helicopters rapidly and they concurred the woods during a heavy firefight. Several enemy positions were taken during this fight. Suddenly two enemy vehicles appeared which were equipped with machine guns. These vehicles started a counteroffensive against the soldiers of the 11th LMB. The soldiers on the ground did not hesitate a moment to call directly the fire support of one of the Apaches. After an intensive fight the Apache managed to destroy the vehicle and the military operation could continue on the ground to occupy the premises. After securing the area, the soldiers prepared themselves again to leave the terrain. The mission was successful, because the enemy positions were neutralized. One of the soldiers displays with green smoke where the landing zone is located in order to retrieve the present soldiers. First a Cougar appeared which picked up the first group of soldiers. Finally, also the landing zone for the two Chinook helicopters was indicated by green smoke. The two Chinooks landed on the small piece of heath and picked up the last soldiers. The Apache were still there for the safety. After the departure the mission ended and the terrain was left.

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