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APROC 2018
Latest update: February 2019
Publication: This article has been published by Air Forces Monthly magazine August 2018.
Air Centric Personal Recovery Operative Course 2018
The first Air Centric Personal Recovery Operative Course (APROC) was held at Lechfeld Air Base, Germany in 2010 succeeding the Combined Joint Personnel Recovery Standardization Course (CJPRSC) organized by the European Air Group (EAG). EAG introduced the first standards and procedures related to personal recovery (PR) missions to extract isolated personnel (ISOP).

APROC is organized by the European Personnel Recovery Centre (EPRC) which has its headquarters at Poggio Renatico, Italy with the execution annually rotating between the EPRC member nations: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom. EPRC partners countries are: Canada, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the United States.

APROC 2018 was hosted by the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) and organized by the Defence Helicopter Command (DHC) together with EPRC. The task force participants operated from Gilze-Rijen Air Base from May 23 until June 6.
APROC objectives
APROC focuses on training aircrews and Extraction Forces (EF) who will be executing the recovery missions (primary aim) and educate and train supporting forces (secondary aim). The primary objectives are twofold related to the aircrews who are mixed between pilots with limited experience and pilots who are to become a Rescue Mission Commander (RMC). The less experienced crews will be trained in planning and conducting the complex PR missions, with complex being the multinational forces and different aircraft types involved. The RMC will be educated to lead the planning and execution of the missions including the briefing and de-briefing process to the task force and higher chain of command. Another important role is assigned to the extraction forces (EFs) of which its commanders fully participate in the planning process of a PR mission.
Besides these players the missions are supported by Fixed Wing Rescue Escort (FW RESCORT - fighters) and Airborne Early Warning (EAW) aircraft. The secondary aim of APROC involves these aircrews. EAW crews are trained to become proficient as Airborne Mission Coordinators (AMC) and RESCORT crews educated to act as proficient On Scene Commander (OSC). The EFs are trained to standards and procedures to recover ISOPs including providing medical care when required
Rescue mission commander and scenario
The EPRC staff composed the three task forces in the preliminary planning process taking into account the capacity and capabilities of the participating helicopters and aircrews as well as providing a correct balance between them. The task forces were set up to operate in the same composition for three days and then changed to another group for the next three days of the course.
During the main planning conference the scenario’s – which gradually became more difficult and complex - and task force composition was proposed to the participating countries allowing them to request for additions or changes.

The DHC provided for nine exercise locations of which three were situated in Belgium (see table below). At Gilze-Rijen twelve pilots were trained to become RMC. Each task group was assigned a RMC and a deputy RMC to plan, brief, execute and de-brief the mission thus allowing for each of the pilots to be trained and educated twice for each role. The task forces were composed of the following aircraft:

Taskforce 1: Two rotary wing RESCORT aircraft and two or three recovery helicopters.
Taskforce 2 & 3:

Two rotary wing RESCORT aircraft, two FW RESCORT aircraft, two or three recovery helicopters and one AEW aircraft.

Note: see table with the roles assigned to each participant.

Both the Boeing E-3 AWACS and the Gulfstream G550 CAEW provided support to two task forces simultaneously, primarily controlling the fighters and when needed acting as a relay station between the ISOP and the task force. The Gulfstream could support three task forces using its automatic relay function integrated in its communication system.

In the morning the (deputy) RMC’s started their mission planning based on the latest intelligence (Intel) reports received. Intel provided the latest information related to the number of ISOP’s to be recovered, the threat level of the opposing forces and the presence of any ground based air defence systems. After the Intel brief and mission planning the task force received its briefing. The daily flight operations were conducted in the 14.00 – 16.30 CEST timeframe. From 13.30 crews arrived at the helicopters to complete flight checks and boarding of the extraction forces. After departing Gilze-Rijen AB the task forces went to their assigned extraction locations. The fixed- and/or rotary wing RESCORT helicopters were the first to arrive in the area and took up the OSC role. Providing reconnaissance and close air support (CAS) they would call in the recovery element of the task force as soon as it would be save to put the helicopters on the ground. The extraction forces exited the helicopters which then departed the landing zone (LZ) towards an assigned holding track. Meanwhile on the ground the extraction forces conducted their operation to recover the ISOP including providing medical care in case the survivor or extraction forces personnel were injured. As soon as things on the ground were stabilized the extraction forces returned to the LZ. The OSC recalled the recovery vehicles to extract all persons on the ground while providing CAS. With everyone back in the recovery helicopters the task force left the scene. Depending on their scenario they would continue straight back to Gilze-Rijen or use a FARP (Forward Arming and Refueling Point). Three FARPS were available to provide for additional training for the crews including hot refueling of the helicopters.
Each FARP was located on a route to or from the exercise location with Deelen reserve AB allocated to the Veluwe area (Ginkelse heide, Stroe and Ederheide), Volkel AB for the province of Limburg area (Crayel, Kruispeel and Weerterheide) and Woensdrecht AB for the locations in Belgium (Leopoldsburg, Ursel and Zoersel). Back at Gilze-Rijen the debriefing took place with the (deputy) RMC receiving feedback about his performance by the EPRC staff directly they finished the debriefing.
Participants and exercise locations
Operating from Gilze-Rijen:

Country: Aircraft: a/c no. Squadron / Wing: Airbase: a/c role
France AS555AN 2 EH 05.067 Orange RW RESCORT
  NH90-NFH 1 33F Lanvéoc / Poulmic Recovery
Italy EF-2000 2 4° Stormo Grosseto FW RESCORT
  G550CAEW 1 14° Stormo Pratica di Mare  AEW
  HH-101A 1 15° Stormo Cervia Recovery
  EH-101A 1 1° Grupelicot Luni-La Spezia Recovery
Netherlands CH-47D 1 298 squadron Gilze-Rijen Recovery
  AH-64D 2 301 squadron Gilze-Rijen RW RESCORT
  AS532U2 1 300 squadron Gilze-Rijen Recovery
Poland Mi-24V 2 56. BLT Inowroclaw RW RESCORT
Spain AS332B 1 803 Esc Cuatro Vientos Recovery
Sweden Hkp.16A 1 2.Hkpskv Linköping/Malmen Recovery
UK Merlin HC.3A 2 846 NAS RNAS Yeovilton Recovery
Total aircraft:   18

Operating from home bases:

Country: Aircraft: No. a/c Squadron / Wing: Airbase: Role
France E-3F 1 EDCA 036 Avord AEW
NATO E-3A 1 NAEW&CF Geilenkirchen AEW
Netherlands F-16AM 2 312, 313, 322 squadron Volkel, Leeuwarden FW RESCORT
Total aircraft:   4

Exercise locations:

Date Location Location Location
28-05-18 Leusderheide Crayel Leopoldsburg
29-05-18 Leusderheide Crayel Leopoldsburg
30-05-18 Leusderheide Crayel Leopoldsburg
31-05-18 Stroe Weerterheide Zoersel
01-06-18 Cancelled Cancelled Cancelled
04-06-18 Stroe Kruispeel Zoersel
05-06-18 Ederheide Weerterheide Ursel
06-06-18 Ederheide Weerterheide Ursel

The mission on June 1 was cancelled due to bad weather.
APROC / CJPRSC history
Year Exercise Airbase Country
2008 CJCSARSC Florennes Belgium
2009 CJPRSC Cazaux France
2010 CJPRSC Lechfeld Germany
2011 CJPRSC Albacete Spain
2012 CJPRSC Holzdorf Germany
2013 CJPRSC Cazaux France
2014 CJPRSC Florennes Belgium
2015 CJPRSC Papa Hungary
2016 APROC Lechfeld Germany
2017 APROC Rivolto Italy
2018 APROC Gilze-Rijen Netherlands

The Spanish Air Force will host APROC 2019 at Zaragoza AB.
I would like to thank Claudia and Hans RNLAF DHC – SVC and Lt.Col. Bart. Holewijn RNLAF EPRC training manager.
APROC 2018 participants photo gallery
French Air Force AS555AN arrives for APROC at Gilze-Rijen May 22. French Navy NH90-NFH on approach to runway 10 Gilze-Rijen May 22. Two Italian Air Force Eurofighters participated. Gilze-Rijen May 22.
The Italian Air Force operates two G500-CAEW. Both took part in APROC. On May 30 the second aircraft arrived. One of the EH101 (Merlin) variants to take part. Italian Air Force HH-101A takes off at Gilze-Rijen on June 4. The Italian Navy also participated by sending one of its EH-101s.

One Royal Netherlands Air Force AS532.U2 Cougar participated and returns to his homebase on June 4. Departing with its task force a RNLAF CH-47D takes off from Gilze-Rijen on May 30.
Two RNLAF AH-64Ds were assigned the RW ESCORT role. After completing the mission on May 30 they returned to base.
The Polish Army participated with two of their Mi-24Vs.
Spanish Air Force AS332B Super Puma completing checks before departing for the APROC mission on June 4. The Swedish Army Hkp.16a Blackhawk returns to Gilze-Rijen on June 4.
  A Royal Navy Merlin HC.3A departs the landing zone at the Ederheide on June 6.  
APROC 2018 support aircraft
French Air Force Falcon 900 ET 00.060 Polish Air Force C-130E 14 ELTr Spanish Air Force A400M Ala 31