The latest Operation Herrick Mission Rehearsal Exercise which concluded at the weekend saw RAF helicopter crews work closely withtheir counterparts from the Royal Danish Air Force.
Exercise Pashtun Jaguar saw various units from Joint Helicopter Command deploy to Salisbury Plain to support 1 Mechanized Brigade’s final training prior to deployment to Afghanistan on Op Herrick 18.
Commanding the Danish contingent was Major Finn Christensen who explained that working with the RAF was not new: “We have operated with the RAF in Iraq and Afghanistan with Squirrel helicopters. We have a lot of things in common and a mutual understanding of how we operate. This exercise will enable us to plug in at both staff and operational level in Afghanistan.”
The Danes deployed two of their 14 EH-101 Merlin helicopters from their base at Karup to Netheravon for the final two weeks of the MRX which Maj Christensen deemed a great success: “It’s gone brilliantly. The two crews we are training here [as instructors] have been at Benson for four years and in Afghanistan flying with the RAF Merlin Squadrons.
“Mixed formation flying with the UK helicopters enables us to practice the techniques and procedures used in Afghanistan with the units we would operate alongside. The good thing is the flexibility of airspace and the larger areas in which to fly low level than we have in Denmark. This gives us a lot of new ways to challenge our crews.”
He added: “On the Exercise we have the framework of troops on the ground and the battle rhythm so we can develop and participate at the same time.
The Danes operated closely with both RAF and Army helicopters but in particular with fellow Merlin-equipped 28(AC) Squadron. Flight Lieutenant Jack Longbottom is the RAF Squadron’s Junior Engineering Officer who said: “It’s been great to operate with the Danes. The relationship is good and we’ve shared knowledge and experience. We’ve taken the opportunity to look at their aircraft and role equipment and supported them with ground equipment support, tooling and experience.
“Operating in the field is what Merlin Force does and my team have taken this in their stride. It’s been enjoyable to operate alongside our Danish colleagues who have been very receptive to our support.
His Danish counterpart was Major Jens Fjordside: “We are in daily contact with the UK Merlin Team from Benson and we have a great cooperation with those guys.
“We have got to build up our ground support system and so we’re relying on cooperation with the RAF Merlin team. Our goal is to have our own capability to deploy and this exercise is part of the learning process. The bottom line is this is a great opportunity to see how the Merlin team have built up their ground support systems.
He added: “We’re also exchanging knowledge on techniques we have both developed. It’s an exchange of procedures for maintaining the Merlin helicopter. Operating in the UK has been a great experience and I’d say it’s a must for the Danish ground crew to see and experience this.”
Editor: Wg Cdr Eklund
Photographs: Wg Cdr Eklund
A pair of Merlin HC3 helicopters of 28(AC) Squadron based at RAF Benson parked at Netheravon Airfield Camp where the unit participated in Exercise Pashtun Jaguar, an Op Herrick 18 work-up exercise held on Salisbury Plain in February 2013. The Merlin provides vital support to UK and coalition forces in Afghanistan from Camp Bastion.
Flight Sergeant Christian Larsen (left) and Major Jens Fjordside (right) of the Royal Danish Air Force's Eskadrille 722 pictured at Airfield Camp Netheravon whilst on Exercise PASHTUN JAGUAR. The RDAF deployed two EH-101 Merlin helicopters to the Op Herrick work-up exercise held on Salisbury Plain in February 2013.
Flight Lieutenant Jack Longbottom, a Junior Engineering Officer on 28(AC) Squadron based at RAF Benson pictured at Netheravon Airfield Camp whilst participating in Exercise Pashtun Jaguar, an Op Herrick 18 work-up exercise held on Salisbury Plain in February 2013.
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013