“How great it is flying together”

Capt. Juan Manuel Gracia Casado
WO2 Edoardo Baffigo
First published May 16, 2003

From April 28th to May 1st, the Operational Rehearsal Paladin II/2003 was held. As usual in this type of rehearsals, helicopters are commonly employed. But this time Multinational Brigade Southeast (MNB-SE) used other assets than its own. One US AH-64 'Apache', one US UH-60 'Blackhawk' and one Canadian Bell 412 were deployed to Mostar Ortijes' tarmac.

Mostar - Of course, apart from those guest stars, the Spanish AS332 'Superpuma' and the forever young Italian UH-1H 'Huey' were present.

How great it is
Nobody but the crew knows how great it is to "fly together." From the pilot's point of view the mission is over when you are starting the engines. It is usually said, "everything you prepare in the ground won't be suffered in the air." It is especially true for this special occasion, when different helicopters from different countries work successfully together.
In such a realistic training environment, briefings were of utmost importance. The Spanish French Battle Group had to co-ordinate time schedules and location, and common frequencies to establish the necessary radio links. The machines also needed refuelling, sometimes at night.
The overall mission was mainly divided into two parts: Italian and Canadian units were in charge of conducting stand-alone missions, while US and Spanish had to perform an air re-deployment of the Italian Reserve Unit. Little time was available, but the professionalism and ability of the crews allowed them to familiarise and adopt common procedures. Among several topics were weather forecasts, routes planning and close examination of hazards and obstacles along the flying path.

Success and good results
"And it was exciting, too!" said 1Lt. Pedro Canovas, a pilot from the Spanish helicopters Detachment. "We were ordered to do this operation side by side with the American helicopters, and it was quite a good opportunity to share experience and flying techniques."
The operation started with providing security for ground units moving through the Trebinje area by providing cover. Then Cougar and Blackhawk started to train and learn how to safely and rapidly embark and disembark. At night, the Canadian AB412 provided information about the area thanks to its night vision devices.
A border recce over the so called orange zone, performed by US flights, was the final act of this multinational helicopter unit that will surely be remembered for its success and good results.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Spain, US, Canada, Italy, France

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Photo: Capt. Massimo Bringiotti

The forever young UH-1 AB205 shows all of its possibilities.

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Photo: Sgt. Toni McDowell

The Italian troops perform a previous training before the real action.

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Photo: Maj. Jaime Pena

All the crews attend the pre-flight briefings.

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