The primary aim of the Air-Centric Course is to educate and train as follows; Aircrews that have little or no experience in planning and conducting complex missions based on a PR scenario with multi-national, multi-ship, dissimilar aircraft types; Experienced pilots to become Rescue Mission Commander's (RMC) through learning to lead the planning and execution of complex missions and brief and de-brief the mission to the task-force and higher commander; Extraction Forces (EFs) leadership to fully participate in the planning of complex missions. The secondary aim of the course is to educate and train: Airborne Early Warning (AEW) crews to become proficient as Airborne Mission Coordinator (AMC); Rescue Escort (RESCORT) crews to act as proficient On Scene Commander (OSC); Extraction Forces (EFs) to apply standards to recover ISOPs and provide medical care to them as required.
The European Personnel Recovery Centre (EPRC) was established in July 2015 at Poggia, Italy. Set up to create a viable and credible Personnel Recovery (PR) capability for European nations, the Air-centric Personnel Recovery Operatives Course (APROC) is held each year by one of the seven countries who are members of the EPRC. The member states of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Spain, train to qualify their crews in personnel recovery, the rescue and recovery of military staff and civilians in hostile and non-permissive environments.
Held between 23rd May and 6th June at Gilze-Rijen, Netherlands, APROC 2018 was conducted in two phases; A short academics phase of force integration training, providing knowledge about each other’s procedures, capabilities and limitations, and providing information regarding scenario and air- and ground-space where the course will be conducted. Phase two consisting of the flying phase, executing missions on a ‘crawl, walk and run’ basis.
The Polish Army brought two Mil Mi-24 Hinds to APROC
They were from 56 Baza Lotnicza at Inowroclaw/Latkowo
With the commando extraction team in situ, the Cougar departs the area
A pair of Dutch F-16s provide 'top cover' during the extraction process
The EPRC's mission is designed to improve the four phases of Personnel Recovery (Preparation, Planning, Execution and Adaptation) by developing its doctrine and standards through clear lines of communications, and also to provide assistance in support of education and training, exercises and operations. Along with five of the member nations, APROC 2018 also saw helicopters participating from Poland and Sweden. Flying three missions per day using nine separate training areas at Leopoldsburg, Ursel and Zoersel (Belgium) and at Crayel, Edeheide, Kruispeel, Leusderheide, Stroesezand and Weerterheide (Netherlands), the mixed formations of helicopters also involved the cross-fertilization of the extraction teams.
The CH-47F is based at Gilze-Rijen with the Royal Netherlands Air Force's 298 Squadron
Leonardo's Merlin helicopters were very much in attendance at APROC 2018
This Italian Air Force HH.101A Ceasar was employed as a Recovery Vehicle in the Task Forces
Employed as a Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter, it is equipped with three M134 7.62mm pintle-mounted Gatling guns
With a Royal Netherlands Air Force AS.532 Cougar landing in the background, this Marina Militare Italiana
(MMI-Italian Navy) EH.101 Merlin prepares to depart Gilze-Rijen as part of Shadow formation
Once identified and secured, the commando team move in from the Dutch Cougar helicopter to secure the area and begin the extraction
Based at Linköping/Malmen, this Swedish UH-60 Blackhawk belongs to 2.Hkpskv
Sweden is not a member of the EPRC, attending on an invitation basis along with Poland
05/067 EH at Orange-Caritat sent two AS.555AN Fennecs to APROC 2018
They were employed in the RESCORT role
Two Royal Navy AW.101 Merlin HC.3A helicopters from 845 Naval Air Squadron were at APROC
One is captured lifting off at Gilze-Rijen on 31st May 2018 as part of Hodor 85 flight
An example of how the three Task Forces are made up is given below
CH-47D, Netherlands, Recovery vehicle
UH-101A, Italy, Recovery vehicle
Mi-24V, Poland, RESCORT
Mi-24V, Poland, RESCORT
NH-90NFH, France, Recovery vehicle
AH-64D, Netherlands, RESCORT
AH-64D, Netherlands, RESCORT
AS.332B1, Spain, Recovery vehicle
Merlin HC3A, U.K, Recovery vehicle
Hkp16A, Sweden, Recovery vehicle
Merlin HC3A, U.K, Recovery vehicle
AS.555AN, France, RESCORT
HH-101A, Italy, Recovery vehicle
With the Dutch AH-64 Apaches maintaining protection against any hostiles, the commando team moves out to the waiting CH-47 and boards via the rear ramp
The other fixed-wing elements came from the Royal Netherlands Air Force with F-16 Fighting Falcons
and the Italian Air Force with Eurofighter Typhoons such as this one from 4° Stormo at Grosetto
APROC 2018 saw a total of 547 participants involving the seven nations that provided aircraft, along with an additional five nations (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany and the USA) that provided support personnel. Three sectors were used during each wave of missions, with the area Northwest of Gilze-Rijen not available due to possible incursions over airspace in the area of Schiphol Airport. This allowed for three Task Forces to operate simultaneously; routes covering just over 200 km and utilising three FARPs (Forward Air Refuelling Points).
Reconnaissance and familiarisation flights commenced on 25th May, with the eight day flying programme commencing on 28th May with three missions per day. The three Task Forces each involved; 2 Recovery vehicles, 1 Extraction force, 2 Rotary-wing RESCORT and 2 Fixed-wing RESCORT. These were each supported by; Airborne C2 asset as AMC, GBAD - OPFOR (Ground-Based Air Defence - Opposing Force) teams, 3 Ground OPFOR teams, 3 FARPs.
In addition to the Italian Air Force Gulfstream CAEW operating out of Gilze-Rijen
Airborne Early Warning and Control of the exercise areas were monitored by NATO E-3A Sentry's from Geilenkirchen
Based at Gilze-Rijen, a 298 Squadron CH-47D Chinook head's off as part of Shadow formation
The Dutch CH-47s were used as Recovery Vehicles during APROC
Participating units in APROC 2018 included the following:-
[France] Escadron d'Helicopteres 05.067, Armée de l'Air, AS555 Fennec
[France] 33 Flottille, Aéronautique Navale, NH90-NFH
[Italy] 1° Gruppo Elicotteri, Marina Militare Italiana, EH.101
[Italy] 15° Stormo, Aeronautica Militare Italiana, HH-101A Caesar
[Netherlands] 298 Squadron, Koninklijke Luchtmacht, CH-47D & CH-47F Chinook
[Netherlands] 300 Squadron, Koninklijke Luchtmacht, AS532U2 Cougar
[Netherlands] 301 Squadron, Koninklijke Luchtmacht, AH-64D Apache
[Poland] 56 Baza Lotnicza, Wojska Lądowe Mi-24 Hind
[Spain] 803 Escadron, Ejercito del Aire, AS332B Super Puma
[Sweden] 2 Hkpskv Flygvapnet, UH-60M Blackhawk
[United Kingdom] 845 Squadron, Royal Navy, Merlin HC.3i
As well as the helicopters, a small fixed-wing element were involved in APROC 2018, including an Italian Air Force E-550 CAEW Gulfstream, which train's Airborne Early Warning (AEW) crews to become proficient as Airborne Mission Co-ordinators (AMC) during the exercise
Personnel Recovery is generally conducted in four phases: 1) Preparation - organization, training, equipment, and employment of the involved forces is paramount in gaining and maintaining the ability to process relevant information and in taking appropriate action. 2) Planning - commanders must consider all available PR options and capabilities within their areas of operations; including military, diplomatic, civil options, or a combination thereof. 3) Execution - the PR system is centred on five key tasks: report, locate, support, recover and reintegrate. 4) Adaptation - from the continuous analysis of all aspects relating to PR during preparation, planning and execution, this leads to improvements of and changes to the PR system when and where needed. This doctrine is adopted by all NATO members, although there may be slight additions and variations by some member states. The key though, is the ability to work together and in a similar fashion. It is inevitable that with the global operations conducted in the modern era that PR may well be achieved quickest and most efficiently by a country not of the recovered personnel's domicile.
Once the area has been secured by the commando team and with the personnel recovery team ready to extract, the second Recovery Vehicle, in this case a Dutch CH-47F Chinook, moves in whilst the AH-64D RESCORT helicopters maintain a secure area, with the fixed-wing element still providing top cover in case of hostile insurgents moving into the recovery zone
'That Others May Live'
803 Escadron/Ala.48 from the Spanish Air Force attended APROC with a single AS.332 Super Puma
Gilze-Rijen Air Base
Undertaking Personnel Recovery in a hostile environment involves complex mission planning, with safety of the aircrews and commandos involved being paramount, combined of course with a successful extraction of the personnel that need recovery. The first job is to establish the exact location of the person needing recovery. The initial elements of the extraction team then move in to identify and confirm the target. At this time the fixed-wing elements (in this case F-16s) provide 'top cover' and eliminate any threats that are in the locale. Once they have identified and secured the 'target', the rescue team then mark their location with a flare, so that the recovery helicopter can drop the commando team to secure the area and complete the extraction whilst the RESCORT helicopters maintain a secure environment within the area, with the fixed-wing aircraft continuing to provide cover.
Most people's perception of Personnel Recovery is probably not what it seems. Most would assume that it would involve military personnel in some form of rescue mission following an aircraft crash, bombing or other incident. This may well be the case; however it may also involve civilians as well, under any number of circumstances. The capture of NATO personnel and the exploitation by a hostile nation or clan during operations could have a significant negative impact on operational security, morale of assigned forces and also public support. The Alliance therefore requires a system to recover both military and civilian personnel that have become isolated.
The combination of military, diplomatic and civil efforts to effect the recovery and reintegration of isolated personnel, military or civilian, who are separated from their unit or organisation in a situation that may require them to survive, evade, resist exploitation, or escape while awaiting recovery is paramount. Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract (SERE), defines the set of tactics, techniques, and procedures that give isolated personnel the tools to survive in any environment and to evade capture where such a threat exists. Failing that, to resist exploitation by captors and, if the situation permits, escape captivity to finally support their own or assisted recovery.
So exactly what is Personnel Recovery?
We would like to thank the following people for their assistance in helping us with this report
Lieutenant Colonel Bart Holewijn (APROC Training Manager)
Claudia van Hoek (Communications Adviser, Defensie Helikopter Commando )
Major “Wally” Blankenspoor (Head of Crew Training)
Major “Holy” Emmens ( Integrated Planning Cell)