RAF Regiment Gunners currently deployed on the NATO enhanced Air Policing mission in Romania have completed downed NATO pilot rescue drills as part of a Joint Personnel Recovery exercise with US Army Black Hawk helicopters.
The exercise known as Exercise Titan Salvage saw regular and reserve RAF Regiment Gunners from across the 121 Expeditionary Air Wing Force Protection detachment deploy aboard US Army Black Hawks to carry out the simulated extraction of NATO aircrew that require rescue.
The mission was to deploy, find, and then rescue the downed US and UK isolated personnel in a simulated hostile area. As the designated Ground Extraction Force trained and ready to conduct the mission, the RAF Regiment Gunners were tested against the 5 phases of Joint Personnel Recovery: Report, Locate, Support, Recover and Re-integrate.
During the exercise top cover was provided by overflying RAF Typhoons, conducting Close Air Support and the designated Air Recovery was provided by two UH-60 Black Hawks from the US Army’s 3rd Battalion, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade.
Responsible for carrying out the correct authentication procedures when the RAF Regiment Section made contact with the aircrew on the exercise, was RAF Regiment Reservist and Second in Command Lance Corporal Stuart Crowe of 603 Squadron.
“With the support of an RAF combat medic and a US Joint Terminal Attack Controller, my team of eight were split between the two Black Hawks. All went to plan; we landed on and secured the Helicopter Landing Site, located and authenticated the isolated personnel and recovered them back to Mihail Kogalniceanu. Whilst I’ve flown in many RAF helicopters this was the first time I have been in a Black Hawk and I really enjoyed the experience. It was great to work with the US Army Black Hawk crews and to see how they operate."
Lance Corporal Crowe
Second in Command, 603 Squadron
The RAF Regiment Gunners section included a RAF paramedic to treat any casualties and a US Army Joint Terminal Attack Controller to direct the air movements from the ground. This included the RAF Typhoons from 121 Expeditionary Air Wing Force that provided the Close Air Support and conducted several low-level shows of force to deter any opportunistic enemy forces.
Taking off in two Black Hawk helicopters from Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near Constanta in Romania, which was a first for a RAF Ground Extraction Force exercise, the Gunners were air-lifted to a training area where signal smoke, initiated by the 'evading' pilots, indicated their location. On landing, the troops adopted their recovery formation and started to cover the ground until they found the isolated personnel.
“The exercise was extremely successful, working with the US Black Hawks has presented an excellent opportunity for the RAF Regiment to advance and learn new techniques, tactics and procedures for Joint Personnel Recovery. It was great to see that the US aircrew have similar procedures to us; it builds great confidence that our two nations, alongside our other NATO allies can work effectively together to complete Joint Personnel Recovery missions."
Sergeant Jason O’Rourke
RAF Regiment Exercise Conducting Officer
The RAF Regiment Gunners drawn from both regular and reserve Regiment Squadrons are deployed in Romania to guard the four RAF Typhoons that are deployed to Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania until September 2021 as part of 121 Expeditionary Air Wing, conducting the NATO enhanced Air Policing mission for the Romania International Flight Information Region.
You can see more on Exercise Titan Salvage in the video below.