UPDATED | Finnish and German military rotary aircraft and their crews had a blast this week up in Scandinavia. Exercise Cold Blade 2016 put machines and men & women to the test from 7 to 18 March 2016.
Place of the winter wonderland was Ivalo far up in the most Northeastern country, with the training area being about 40 km (25 miles) from the Russian border.
The Finnish Army (Maavoimat) played the leading role, with 6 of its 20 NHIndustries NH90s supported by 95 people. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) sent 2 of its 64 Sikorsky CH-53G Stallion and 70 personnel. Sweden sent some observers, while Italy dispatched a few trainees.
Operate in a challenging environment
Cold Blade, like its sister exercise Hot Blade in the Southern European countries, is aimed to train European helicopter crews and technicians to fly and operate in a challenging environment and to teach and learn techniques, tactics and procedures in those special conditions.
Finnish special forces
Simultaneously with Cold Blade the Finns ran Northern Griffin, an combat search and rescue exercise of Finnish special forces, enabling the NH90 and CH-53 crews to train with ground forces in infiltration and exfiltration. Airheadsfly.com guest photographer Johannes Heyn sent us some nice footage that we love to share with you.
Norway last week took delivery of its sixth NH90 helicopter. It also the first for the Norwegians to be sonar equipped, according to NHIndustries. The Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (NDMA) accepted the aircraft which then made its way north from its birth place in Tessera, Italy.
The delivery marks the end of the first phase of the Norwegian production program. The NH90 will start operations aboard Norwegian vessels later this year. The next phase of the program includes the delivery of six helicopters configured for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and two further helicopters configured for Coast Guard operations.
As of now, 270 NH90 helicopters have been delivered in naval and tactical transport variants. They are in service in Germany, France, Spain, Italy,tThe Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Greece, Oman, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand.
The twin-engine, medium-size NH90 helicopter program is managed by consortium NHIndustries, which is made up by Finmeccanica Helicopter Division (32%), Airbus Helicopters (62.5%) and Fokker Aerostructures (5.5%).
A giant winter war exercise is on its way in Norway. Cold Response 2016 kicks off in March, but already now preparations are on their way. Sweden takes it extra seriously, the country runs a pre-excercise of its own: Vintersol (Wintersun).
A few days ago a US Marines CH-53 Sea Stallion was offloaded from a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy on Vaernes Airbase in Norway. From 2 to 9 March the Marines will fight their way through the Trøndelag counties in Central Norway, together or against forces of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and, of course, Norway. It is such a big exercise that it will take another 13 days to repatriate all equipment involved.
Among the 15,000 troops expected to participate are many Swedes. To be fully ready a thousand Swedes are waging a winter war against each other from 5 to 10 February near Boden in the far north of the country. They include the crew of a NH90 helicopter – dubbed HKP 14 in Swedish service – flying in artillery command.
In 2018 Norway will see an even larger exercise when Trident Juncture is held with 25,000 participants.
France has ordered six additional NH90 helicopters in tactical troop transport (TTH) configuration, the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) said on Thursday 7 January. The order closely follows that of seven more Tiger attack helicopters in December.
The new NH90 order brings the total amount of NH90 TTHs on order for the French Army Aviation to 74. Since 2010, the type has been deployed by several countries in different theatres of operation. An extensive list of role-tailored equipment allows the NH90 to fit operators’ mission needs.
Rescuing people from the icy waters of Scandinavia with the winch on the new NH90 helicopter is not so easy, the Swedish Armed Forces discovered during tests the last few months. Unless there is sufficient crew on board, the risk of the winch cable damaging the helicopter is a serious concern.
Currently the winch operator has to hold wire away from the chopper by hand or foot, with another crew member holding him safe. Once out on a real operation there may that person, with the two pilots/navigators in the front and the diver in the water. But technicians of the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) and the Third Helicopter Squadron (Tredje helikopterskvadronen) think that with some additional equipment it may work.
The maritime version of the HKP14 (Helikopter 14) – as the NH90 is dubbed in Swedish military service – will be on the forefront of submarine hunting in the near future. Sweden lost serious airborne capacity when the Boeing-Vertol/Kawasaki HKP4 (model 107, CH-46 in USMC service) was decommissioned in 2011. HKP14 field tests as underwater reconnaissance asset with dipping sonar is planned for 2016.