EX UNITED ACTION: A NEW CAPABILITY FOR THE COMMANDO HELICOPTER FORCE.
Joint Personnel Recovery (JPR): The Background
The Commando Helicopter Force, newly equipped with Merlin Mk3, is developing a capability for Joint Personnel Recovery. This capability has been exercised alongside other Joint Helicopter Command assets in the United Kingdom, but whilst 845 NAS were deployed to the USA on Ex Black Alligator 15, an opportunity presented itself to train with the world leaders in JPR; the United States Air Force.
Ex UNITED ACTION provided a unique opportunity for CHF to grow its JPR capability. Training took place out of the 66th (Jolly Greens) Rescue Squadron at the iconic Nellis Air Force Base (AFB),Nevada,USA. During the two week exercise, crews from both Nations trained and operated together against increasing simulated threats and mission complexity.
It was clear both Squadrons had much to learn from each other, from humour and culture to tactics and procedures, but the focus always remained on developing JPR capability.
Following the Korean War The Jolly Greens, currently flying HH60 ‘Pavehawks’, were formed by the USAF to be able to recover isolated aircrew in any environment and against any threat. Half a century of experience, training and active service has lead them to be world leaders in JPR. As such it was clear CHF was being mentored by the subject matter experts.
Training With The Specialists
The exercise began with a ‘table top exercise’ to plan the recovery of two (simulated) downed aircrew in enemy territory, with the two Nations establishing how each did their business. This then lead to the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the remainder of the exercise.
Four CHF crews took part in the specialised training sorties, with continual feedback in thorough briefs and debriefs. It became evident that this was the perfect next step from the recently completed desert Environmental Qualifications (EQ). This was top quality Environmental Training (ET).
The Exercise culminated in a 4-ship rescue mission involving two Merlins and two Pavehawks, utilising all of the skills learned in the previous two weeks. USAF tactics were subtly adjusted to account for certain capabilities of the Merlin, such as the ramp gun, which despite impressive firepower is not available on the Pavehawk.
A Pilots View
Flt Lt Tim Thorogood from 845 NAS said,
“The introduction of new tactics gave a fresh way of viewing JPR, and of course the opportunity to establish interoperability with our Allies was invaluable.”
The training opportunity also allowed for a unique experience;
“With Nellis adjacent toLas Vegas, flying the helicopters over the famous bright lights of the ‘Vegas Strip’ is something I’ll never forget!” Flt Lt Thorogood added.
Commanding Officer, Commander Matt Punch added,
“This was an unrivalled training opportunity. The 66th Rescue Sqn couldn’t have been more welcoming, committing a huge amount of time and resource to developing our understanding and tactical appreciation for JPR. It was some of the best aviation training I have experienced in my career.”
The Commando Helicopter Force gained invaluable training, tactics and a firm foundation on which to develop capability from their two weeks at Nellis AFB. Plans are already afoot to develop this training in 2016, forging a strong relationship with our Allies at the Jolly Greens, enabling CHF to become theUK’s specialist in JPR.