On 17 January, a series of exercises for a Dutch helicopter detachment started at the Florennes base. About 100 people are deployed at this base in the province of Namur. Three AH-64 Apache helicopters have been deployed for the entire duration of the exercise. Other machines are flying from their base in Gilze-Rijen.
The Netherlands has acquired 30 of these combat helicopters. Two have been lost in combat (in Afghanistan in 2004 and in Mali in 2015). The remaining 28 helicopters are being upgraded from D to E models.
Colonel Philippe Goffin, Florennes Base Commander: It has been a long time since we have had a foreign detachment on our base. We regularly send our F-16s abroad for training. Last year we went to Landivisiau in Brittany. As long as the neighbouring countries, which are our allies, welcome us, it is normal that we also offer our base for this.
When the Dutch asked us to deploy here, it was only natural to welcome them. The infrastructure and the location of the base are well suited for this. Now, with the construction of the new infrastructure about to start, we will have less space in the future.
What the Dutch are looking for is the proximity to the Ardennes and the low flying areas. Systems have been deployed at King Albert I camp in Marche-en-Famenne to create a tactical environment for these exercises.
Major Dafna Dempsey Commander Royal Netherlands Air Force Detachment: We are very happy to be here for our training, even though the weather last week was not good. For us, this is one of the most important exercises of the year. During these three weeks in Florennes, we will train our system weapons officer instructors. This instructor’s course consists of seven to eight exercises, and this one is dedicated to threats and electronic warfare. We also have to train in various types of terrain. As you know, Holland has a very flat terrain and the Ardennes are a very close area. It is not easy to find areas that allow such training missions. Normally, we train this instructor course on all helicopter models in our fleet. But here, for operational reasons, only the AH-64 Apache’s are involved. Cougar helicopters also rotate between here and our base.
The cooperation with the Belgian base is excellent. We work mainly with the Belgian special forces, the F-16s, and the helicopter units. All of this brings great value to this exercise. We are here with a staff of 100 people and there is a big exercise control organisation based in Marche-en-Famenne as well as in Elsenborn. We are also deploying a whole range of threat systems for these helicopters. I am thinking for example of systems to simulate SA-7 surface-to-air missiles or communication jamming systems.
In reality, the training area is not too far from our base in Holland, but we often fly long missions, and it makes sense to deploy here for better fuel management. From here we are in the area in 25 minutes, which allows us to do longer training missions. We shorten the transit flight.
Usually, we deploy to Southern Germany, but due to various problems, we couldn’t go there. It’s better here, even though the airspace is challenging. We also used to deploy to England, close to Scotland, mainly for electronic warfare but this kind of deployment has to be planned five years in advance…
We hope to continue this cooperation in the future.
Thank you, very good and well documented article