Exercise COLD BLADE 2016, hosted by the Finnish Defence Forces, was formally completed Wednesday evening March 16th 2016 by the Chief of Finnish Army Aviation, LtCol Jaro Kesänen.
At exercise closure, a total of 290 hours had been flown on 156 missions with 3 participating Member States (Finland and Germany, as well as Sweden which sent observers) and 10 European helicopters: seven NH-90, one MD500 and two CH-53GA. Italian attendees participated in the survival training.
This cold weather exercise was operated from Ivalo airbase in Finland. The challenging winter scenario in Lapland allowed Finland and Germany to train and adapt their aircrew to winter conditions. Besides the focus on flying in demanding white-out conditions, the exercise was used to test the helicopters, test the aircrew and to teach and learn Technics, Tactics and Procedures in a cold and snowy environment.
During the first week, Finland and Germany executed individual trainings, qualifying helicopter pilots and loadmasters in white-out landings and navigation skills in an area with barely any houses or roads. During day and night missions all training aims were met and, even with Night Vision Goggles, the nights were very dark in northern Finland. During the second week, formation flights with German CH-53GA and Finnish NH-90 helicopters were flown at night. While aircrew from Germany and Finland were flying, Italian militaries attended the survival course and learned how to survive in Lapland.
The German Detachment commander praised the unique nature of the exercise and stressed that the added value of cooperating with other nations and practicing winter operations in combined missions just could not have been achieved by working alone. The skills developed during the exercise are precisely those needed to conduct successful operations in the future. These types of exercises truly enhance helicopter capabilities in Europe which also reflects the objective of EDA’s Helicopter Exercise Programme (HEP). Since the first exercise in France in 2009, trainings have increased in scale, environmental challenges and complexity. Participants not only came from different nations but also from different branches with air force and army all working together. In exercise Cold Blade 2016, German Army NH-90 mechanics executed tests and exchanged information with their Finnish counterparts concerning winter maintenance, use of tools and NH-90 helicopter documentation.
This was the first EDA exercise hosted by Finland.