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Netherlands helicopter force familiarise with mountainous terrain

Story based on input provided by the Royal Netherlands Air Force Public Affairs Office

From August 28 to September 8, 2023, a Royal Netherlands Air Force mixed helicopter force was deployed to Aviano Air Base Italy, to conduct flying training in an alpine environment in nearby Dolomites mountains.

Under exercise High Blaze 23, Chinook, Cougar, NH90 and Apache helicopter crews from the Netherlands Defence Helicopter Command at Gilze-Rijen, were exposed to operations in mountainous terrain.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Jeroen, High Blaze exercise director, High Blaze is an important training event, because mountains exist in most of the countries worldwide, Helicopter crews need to be ready to operate in this environment and consequently, the training is held every year.

 

From August 28 to September 8, 2023, a Royal Netherlands Air Force mixed helicopter force was deployed to Aviano Air Base Italy, to conduct flying training in an alpine environment in nearby Dolomites mountains.
A Netherlands Defence Helicopter Command mixed rotary wing force was deployed to Aviano Air Base Italy, to conduct flying training in an alpine environment in nearby Dolomites mountains.
Photo by Royal Netherlands Air Force.

 

“High Blaze is considered the high school for mountain flying, and for the first time, the exercise involves NH90 maritime combat helicopters,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jeroen. “The training familiarizes newcomer personnel with operating above and between these massive obstacles. At the same time, veterans are also challenged during High Blaze – this is essential for all our crews,” he added.

 

From August 28 to September 8, 2023, a Royal Netherlands Air Force mixed helicopter force was deployed to Aviano Air Base Italy, to conduct flying training in an alpine environment in nearby Dolomites mountains.
A Netherlands Defence Helicopter Command NH-90 maritime combat helicopter crew during landing operations on a mountain ridge during training exercise High Blaze.
Photo by Royal Netherlands Air Force

 

“Almost all past peace operations have taken place in areas with mountains, and mountain flying is very demanding: Treacherous downhill and uphill winds and hot exhaust gases that can cause turbulences and the less experienced participants need to get accustomed to this. Mistakes are punished instantaneously and severely,” said Jeroen.

“Mountains can also create an overwhelming impression and you have to take optical illusions into account which can make it difficult to adjust your speed in time if you want to land touch down. We make the students aware of this during the two-week exercise,” he added.

 

 

Besides the Air Force’s Apache, Chinook and Cougar helicopters, two NH90 maritime helicopters have also deployed to the Italian-American host base at Aviano for the first time. The NH90 has recently been used for operations over land, too; consequently, this fact makes High Blaze relevant for naval flight crews. “This helicopter has particularly good properties for mountain flying,” is something that Navy pilot Marnix has realised. “To remain practically invisible during tactical movement, we follow the contours of the landscape at a safe distance. Being able to train with and learn from the air force colleagues is a major benefit, especially now that we are operating more often over land.”

 

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