Belgian-Luxembourg bi-national air transport unit participates in exercise Real Thaw 2023 in Portugal

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office based on input provided by the Belgian Air Force

A Belgian Air Force detachment took part in the multinational Portuguese-led exercise Real Thaw with a Luxembourg Armed Forces A400M transport plane and more 70 military personnel to train how to conduct air operations with other NATO allies.

From February 26 to March 10, 2023, the multinational live-fly exercise Real Thaw 2023 ran at the Portuguese Air Force Base in Beja. The aim of Real Thaw was to evaluate and certify the Portuguese Defence forces’ operational capabilities and to stimulate cooperation, interoperability and training with NATO Allies.

About 700 military personnel and 26 aircraft and helicopters from eight NATO countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United States) as well as NATO assets and troops took part in this annual exercise, which is the first major live-fly event each year.

“From the Belgian Air Component we deployed the aircrew, technical and support personnel and an Air Mobile Protection Team. Colleagues from the Belgian Land Component supported with their Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to benefit from training synergies,” said Major aviator Jonas Van Hellemont, Belgian detachment commander during Real Thaw.

“All the flights we performed were part of the tactical training and qualification of both crews and ground personnel and contributed to enhancing skills and experience working in a multinational environment,” the Major added.

“In addition to our own objectives, our participation in Real Thaw 23 is an absolute added value for our Portuguese colleagues. The Luxembourg Armed Forces A400M that we brought here enabled the Portuguese military to train and qualify their Air Mobile Protection Teams and Joint Tactical Air Controllers on an aircraft type that is not in use with the Portuguese armed forces. The same applied for Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter pilots who had the opportunity to practice their Slow Mover Protection tactics, techniques and procedures during Combined Air Operations,” he added.

During the exercise, Portuguese paratroopers – led by Belgian para commando dispatchers – made their first free fall jumps out of the A400M. The Belgian detachment ran container delivery system gravity extraction tests with platforms prepared by Portuguese loadmasters and trained medical evacuation procedures with their Flight Surgeons.

“The busy and long working days required a lot of effort and flexibility from each participant; but via tactical training opportunities and practical qualifications in a multinational exercise environment, we made a big step closer towards Full Operational Capability of the Belgian-Luxembourg bi-national air transport squadron within our A400M fleet,” concluded Major Van Hellemont.



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