EXERCISE CRIMSON EAGLE 15A
CRIMSON EAGLE is the Attack Helicopter Force’s major live firing and environmental training event of the year. Its aim is to force generate Combat Ready Apache Pilots capable of deploying worldwide in order to undertake contingent operations such as Evacuation Operations, Countering Irregular Activity and War Fighting.
Outline. During the 8-10 week flying phase the AHF generated 6 new AH Combat Ready (CR) crews (12 pilots), refreshed CR currencies of two front line AH squadrons, qualified new Weapon Instructors, completed several seat conversions, refreshed Survive Evade Resist Escape (SERE) skills, validated the training of up to 11x UK JTACs, and for 50% of personnel completed adventurous training opportunities in the surrounding area.
The Road to America. In early January lead elements from the Attack Helicopter Force (AHF) 653 Operational Training Squadron (including an REME Equipment Support Group (ESG)) deployed by C17 in order to transport 6x AH and several tonnes of freight and ammunition from RAF Brize Norton to the Naval Air Force El Centro (California). Once deployed the squadron quickly established a Forward Operating Base (FOB), and commenced dust landing and mountainous operations for the Conversion to Role (CTR) student AH pilots who were nearing the end of 2 years of AH training. The CTR syllabus is 50% live aircraft training and 50% simulated; with the bulk of the live training taking place in USA over an 8-10 week period.
Combat Ready. After mastering dust landings and mountain flying, the students are given complex tasks developed by the Air Manoeuvre Training Advisory Team (AMTAT). These missions test the crews’ tactical skills and judgement when faced with a changing scenario governed by complex Rules of Engagement (ROE). The After Action Reviews (AARs) are particularly brutal. Every sortie (day and night) is dissected for up to 4 hours by a panel from the AMPTAT, Army Legal Services (ALS), AHF HQ, as well as a qualified Intelligence Officers, Electronic Warfare Instructors (EWI) and Apache Weapon Instructors AWI). The aim is to produce a JHC attack helicopter pilot with the right attitude; capable of operating in all environments; and in a broad spectrum of operations. Once the AAR Team is content (and only then) do the crews pass the course and graduate to a front line squadron.
Live Firing. By February, the Detachment expanded to over 200 people and relocated 190 miles east into the Arizona desert. The new graduates started integrating with the other front line crews in preparation for the live firing phase at Gila Bend. This region contains a 7.5m acre live firing range complex; approximately 35 times larger than Salisbury Plain. Vast, rugged, without dwellings and less likely to generate noise complaints, the sheer size means that the AH can operate its full array of weapon systems. Over the duration of the exercise, the Detachment consumed 30,000 rounds of 30mm, 1600 rockets, 45 hellfire missiles and 700 flares.
All Cap-Badges. The Live firing was conducted both day and night, with direct support from UK and US JTACs. The aircraft are maintained by a REME Equipment Support Group (ESG) from the AHF and 7 REME Bn based at Wattisham. The Forward Arming and Refuelling Point (FARP) is manned by AAC soldiers from the AHF and 6 AAC. Feeding is delivered by a military 7 man field kitchen. There are also a variety of other cap badged personnel (Medics, EODs, RLC, Infantry) all with vital and specialist roles. The AHF HQ and 653 Sqn AAC was responsible for the command and supervision of all Detachment personnel. In addition, of course, none of this would be possible without the support and agreement of the US Government.
Summary. In summary, moving aircraft, ammunition, equipment, as well as bringing together 200+ UK military personnel over 5,000 miles is challenging, but hugely rewarding. Once again the success of this exercise has been borne by the sustained commitment and professionalism of all the regular and reserve personnel that make up its ranks. Each year CRIMSON EAGLE evolves and continues to test our commanders, personnel and equipment in different environments and scenarios; all of which is essential to maintaining the operational effectiveness of the AHF and other supporting units.