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TAC UK 2016


       Arriving at Carlisle for the exercise TacBlaze the Royal Netherlands Air Force RNLAF brought their largest deployment for this exercise to date. Having set up the camp their operations began in mid-May. With nine airframes and 200 air force personnel included, engineering, communications, logistical, transport, meteorological and security they located to part of a disused runway, where the contingent became a contained, becoming a self-sufficient unit able to operate without support. Prior to the arrival of the aircraft all the equipment required for the deployment had been transported by road and erected on site turning the area into a mini village for the duration of the exercise. On completion of the site, the aircraft flew in from their home base at Gilze Rijen in the Netherlands. The aircraft involved were 2x CH47D 1x CH47F of 298Sqn 2x AS532 of 300Sqn and 4x AH64 of 301Sqn, 3 of which had recently upgraded Block II models. (eventually all the RNLAF AH64's will be upgraded to Block II standard) numerous crews would undertake the training and to maximise the number of crews that could be trained a rotation from the Netherlands mid way through the exercise period took place.

      Previous TacBlaze exercises have been biannual events which were held during the spring and autumn of each year. During the autumn training period the exercise would incorporated a Helicopter  Weapons Instructor Course HWIC however this aspect of their training now takes place within Europe and as from now following a recent defence review in the Netherlands it was deemed that this exercise will now become an annual exercise.   

       TacBlaze 2016 saw the return of the AS532 Cougar to the exercise. This comes after it was almost retired from the RNLAF's rotary fleet. It had been reprieved to undertake the SAR role, then shortly afterwards it was seen to be the ideal airframe to use in an anti piracy role working with marines and operating from ships. Because of the time spent in their maritime duties, crews from the AS532's were sent to refresh their electronic warfare skills.

       All flying would be conducted within LFA13 and on Spadeadam, beside working electronic threats on the Spadeadam range the RNLAF had put together a number of tactical scenarios for the crews training purposes. Some of these scenarios were aided by the Dutch 11th Air Mobile Brigade, who had deployed 90 personnel for the exercise. Scenarios included insertion and extraction, Vehicle Interception, surveillance and lifting.

       The exercise again fulfilled all of its objectives and looks likely to be conducted here for sometime to come

(My sincere thanks to the Officers in charge of TacBlaze 2016)