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German and Dutch Corporation; Deelen, October 5, 2018

Falcon Autumn 2018, part 2; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

A few years ago the Dutch and German defense ministers signed an agreement stating that the ground components of the German and Dutch airborne troops would be merged to one combined airborne division. During Falcon Autumn 2018, all airborne components from both countries came together in a large exercise.

The 11th Airmobile Brigade is a light infantry brigade of the Royal Netherlands Army. The brigade can operate quickly, flexibly and globally with airplanes and helicopters from the Royal Netherlands Air Force. During the Falcon Autumn exercise, the deployment of the 11th Air Maneuver Brigade will be trained for future deployment. Major Marc Klapdoor is employed at the Airmobile Brigade and plans and develops an exercise such as Falcon Autumn for the 11th Air Assault Brigade. The Major examines the appearance of the 11th Airmobile Brigade during the Falcon Autumn 2018 exercise. Klapdoor indicates that the Brigade is based in Schaarsbergen and in Assen where the units carry out their daily activities. The Major says that the brigade is lightly equipped, because they usually do not have vehicles. The unit is therefore very fast and flexible with the help of the helicopters and transport aircraft. Klapdoor explains the organization of the entire brigade. The army units are assigned to the 11th Airmobile Brigade. As soon as these units operate together with the helicopters of the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC) or the C-130 Hercules of the 336 Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, they together form the 11th Air Maneuver Brigade (11 AMB). The 11 AMB consists of three assault battalions, namely the 11th Infantry Battalion and the 12th Infantry Battalion in Schaarsbergen and finally the 13th Infantry Battalion in Assen.

Major Ronald Blankenspoor is Apache pilot with the 301 Squadron of the DHC of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. His tactical nickname in the unit is "Wally". Blankenspoor is continuing to work at the air force staff where he is responsible for all training and education programs which are executed at the DHC. He does this for all people on board of the helicopters of the DHC like pilots and the loadmasters. For the exercise Falcon Autumn, Wally has drawn up the plan for deploying the helicopters with his team. He worked closely together with Major Klapdoor's team, who in turn worked on

the development and planning of the army components. Blankenspoor indicates that the DHC is a huge organization with over 2000 employees. There are four types of helicopters in the organization, namely the AH-64D Apache, the CH-47D/F Chinook, the AS532U2 Cougar and the NH90 NFH. Wally indicates that helicopters are always very scarce. Helicopters are expensive resources and usually require a lot of maintenance. The deployment of helicopters is therefore always considered very critically before action is taken. Besides the deployment as part of the 11 AMB, the DHC has many more tasks such as the deployment with the Special Forces from Roosendaal or the Marine Corps. Usually the helicopters of the DHC are asked on average by a factor of five times more than one has helicopters available. According to Wally, it is essential at that time that the training possibilities are maximally prepared and used.

An additional aspect of this exercise is the fact that the 11th Airmobile Brigade (11 LMB) has become part of the German "Division Schnelle Krafte" (Division Rapid Forces). It is unique in Europe that a unit such as the 11 LMB is under the command of another country in this case Germany. The 11 LMB is therefore controlled by a German division commander. The DHC is not part of this international organization according to Blankenspoor. This ensures that the cooperation with the German exercise participants adds an extra dimension to the exercise for the pilots of the DHC. The Germans also deliver helicopters during Falcon Autumn, which requires careful coordination to ensure the exercise is safe and effective. The Germans fly with seven NH90 TTH helicopters from the German Army (HEER). According to Blankenspoor, it is therefore very interesting for the DHC to pilots to fly together with the German units in a tight formation during these types of large-scale assault missions. Especially in view of the fact that the Dutch are ahead on the Germans for more than 20 years in the field of airmobile operations, it does not make the exercise any easier according to Wally. In the Netherlands we have been setting up processes and procedures for this kind of operations for more than 25 years. In Germany, people have only started doing this for several years. According to Wally, it is therefore also very instructive for the Germans to train with the Dutch units.

A maximum of joint training is not only possible during the helicopter operations. Also with the ground troops, both German and Dutch units participate in the exercise. The construction period of the German and Dutch collaboration has been ongoing for several years and with Falcon Autumn this year it reaches a new milestone. The ultimate goal of this collaboration is to have a fully deployable division in the future, in which all units are able to follow the same procedures in arbitrary compositions of ground and air components. These procedures include all aspects such as attack tactics, the structure of command and much more. The exercise Falcon Autumn revolves around being able to deploy an entire Battle Group of about 800 to 1000 people. A nice milestone which has been achieved during Falcon Autumn is the fact that the helicopters of both countries are allowed to transport sling loads from each other's army components, according to Wally. The mixed unit is being prepared to be deployed in the future in the interests of the European Union. Major Klapdoor says, it is the intention that the German Dutch cooperation will ultimately be ready in 2020 to be fully deployed in operational missions. Wally points out that even during the Falcon Autumn exercise, the necessary learning moments have occurred so far, in which the German units in particular have had a very steep learning curve. Ultimately, the Dutch/German cooperation ensures that more helicopters are available for exercises such as these.

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