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Falcon Autumn 2018
Latest update: January 2020
Published by Air Forces Monthly in February 2019: "Excercise Falcon Autumn 2018: Going Dutch".
Exercise Falcon Autumn 
Exercise Falcon Autumn was organized by the Royal Netherlands Army – RNLA) 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade Air Assault “7 december” (11LMB - 11 Air Mobile Brigade) from September 26 until October 10. Both the Germany Army with its Division Schnelle Kräfte (DSK - Rapid Forces Division) and the RNLAF Defence Helicopter Command participated with their helicopters which all operated from Military Aviation Terrain Deelen. Exercise Falcon Autumn is one of a series of exercises organized by the brigade with the exercise names originating from the 11LMB emblem ‘a praying Falcon with two crossed swords in a red shield’.
11 Luchtmobiele brigade and Division Schnelle Kräfte 
11LMB is based at the Oranje Barracks in Schaarsbergen with its 11 and 12 infantry battalions, together with its headquarters, engineering, supply, maintenance and medical companies. Its 13 infantry battalion is based at the Johan-Willem Friso barracks in Assen. 11 LMB was activated in 1992 and received its operational readiness status in October 1993. From June 12, 2014 the brigade is integrated into the command structure of the German army Division Schnelle Kräfte. The DSK is comprised of the 1st Airborne Brigade which itself is subdivided into 26 and 31 parachute regiments, support companies and the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK - special forces command). Furthermore three  Heeresfliegertruppe (HEER – Army Air Force) regiments are part of the division consisting of two Transporthubschrauberregiments  (THR – Transport Helicopter Regiment) and one Kampfhubschrauberregiment (KHR - Attack Helicopter regiment). Both THR 10 “LÜNEBURGER HEIDE" and THR 30 are equipped with the NHI NH90-TTH and KHR 36 “KURHESSEN“ is equipped with the Airbus Tiger (previously EC665).
Whereas all ground and aviation assets within Germany are incorporated within the DSK in The Netherlands these are separated between the RNLA and RNLAF. When 11LMB operates together with the RNLAF Defence Helicopter Command (DHC) helicopters (298 squadron - Boeing CH-47D/F Chinook, 300 squadron - Airbus AS532.U2 Cougar and 301 squadron - Boeing AH-64D Apache) and/or the Lockheed Martin C-130Hs from 336 squadron the brigade is transformed into the 11 Air Manoeuvre Brigade (11 AMB).
Falcon Autumn 2018 
During the second half of 2020 Germany will lead the one of the two EU Battle Groups (EUBG) which is kept on standby for a rapid deployment. The EUBG is made up of around 1.500 military personnel from Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany and The Netherlands. The main element of the EUBG will be provided by Germany and The Netherlands with units from the DSK and 11 infantry battalion. Exercise Falcon Autumn provided the opportunity for the German and Dutch battalions to train all aspects of air mobile operations together.

During the media day held on October 5 major Mark 11LMB planning officer and major Ronald “Wally” from the DHC provided an insight into Falcon Autumn. First Maj. Mark explained the training cycle of 11LMB. “We organize two large exercise a year with one held in spring and one held in the autumn keeping into account the weather conditions for the helicopter operations. These are planned one year in advance and provide for an overlap in the planning and execution of the exercise. Preparation of these exercises start a year prior to its execution. Furthermore, we look into the availability of our battalions and companies as some (parts) of them are away”. Members of 11LMB are currently deployed to support UN operation MINUSMA in Mali. The mission will be ended from May 1, 2019 with all Dutch deployed personnel returning home.

The Falcon Autumn scenario was split into three phases. Maj. Mark explains. “The first week was used for the arrival of the helicopters. From Wednesday the exercise aimed at getting everyone acquainted and to train each other’s procedures.
During the second week of the exercise training was conducted on company level and aimed at the several different Air Assault missions. During the third week a battalion (sized 800 – 1.000 personnel) will be trained in one large action using all techniques and procedures trained during the first phases”.  Several missions were conducted twice with for instance on the first day actions by the German companies and the other day the same scenario executed by the Dutch companies. It showed a difference in between the both countries as the Germans are using dogs to support their actions for instance during a RAID. “During Falcon Autumn our 11 infantry battalion with its staff companies were trained and they were supported by our engineering, maintenance, medical, supply companies and the pathfinder platoon. The German 31 regiment provides the headquarter for the German battalion with 26 parachute regiment deployed for the exercise.” The DSK deployed with its THR 30 who brought eight NH90-TTH including two spares, the DHC provided eight Apaches and five Chinooks, including two and one spares respectively.

Maj. Ronald “Wally” explained the participation of the Gilze-Rijen based squadrons.

“Our helicopters are an expensive and scarce resource which also require a lot of maintenance. Except working together with our 11LMB colleagues we also work together with the special forces of the RNLA and the marines of the RNN. Basically our helicopters are requested five to six time more then we can deliver. Therefore we look into what we can support and make sure that we are totally prepared and trained. During this exercise we are working together with the German NH90s which is both interesting and instructive”. The DHC 7 and 860 squadrons are equipped with the naval version NH90-NFH which can be used to support land forces but are predominantly used on the RNN vessels and other maritime tasking.” Asked about things encountered during the exercise with the NH90-TTHs “Wally” addressed three items. “With our 11 AMB concept we are running a little ahead of our German colleagues. We encountered two items in the previous days. One related to the use of command communication in English which was sometimes done in German. Another item revealed the use of different calls made by the helicopter crews. For instance during the scenario’s we used flares to simulate heat seeking missiles. The procedures used between the German and Dutch helicopter crews were different and in these cases it’s important to use the same calls to quickly respond to these treats. We went into the training manuals and checked all procedures. For this and the other items we encountered we jointly adapted and changes were made into both the Dutch and German manuals. As a result we saw an learning curve for all participants”.

During Falcon Autumn all aspects of Air Assault missions (Air Attack, Air Assault, Air Drop/Landing and Air Raid) were conducted. An Air Attack is conducted by the attack helicopters tasked to destroy enemy targets, an Air Raid will see a quick action by an infantry company inserted by transport and protected by attack helicopters. Air assault will see an operation to establish a bridgehead deep into enemy territory and the continued operation by the helicopters. Air landing is done by either the landing by a transport aircraft on a dirt strip or transport helicopters on landing zones. Air drops are made from transport aircraft with either paratroopers or cargo being dropped over a landing zone.

The combined DVI / Media day was set in the afternoon where actions could be observed of the actual scenario’s planned for that day. First to arrive was a team of pathfinders , normally operating in a team of six persons, dropped by a 336 squadron C-130H.30 The pathfinders mission is to check for suitable landing zones for either the transport aircraft or helicopters .These zones will be marked for the aircrews with landing lanes split for the medium and heavy transport helicopters. Pathfinders can jump with an additional person – tandem jump - which is used to insert a non paratrooper like a doctor or technician. Immediately after their ‘preparation’ jump the pathfinders were transported back to Eindhoven AB to prepare for their jump in the dark at the Maarnewaard marking the start of the final week of Falcon Autumn. There they were to survive for 72 hours before the first elements of the Dutch / German battalion would arrive. Important during operations in enemy territory is the supply of the ground forces by cargo drops by transport aircraft. The Dutch Hercules returned to perform two cargo drops using its Cargo Delivery System (CDS). CDS is a relatively new task for the squadron and within the Netherlands it can only trained at MLT Deelen due to its available size and safety regulations. Between the two drops three Apaches departed heading towards military training complex ‘De Vlasakkers’ near Amersfoort. The previous day companies were inserted to conduct an Air Assault and these forces were retracted by four NH90s and four CH-47Ds with the Apaches providing cover. During the recovery at MLT Deelen the next wave of soldiers were already in formation to board the helicopters to conduct their assigned tasks. From Monday until Wednesday all training received during phases 1 and 2 could be put into practice in the exercise final which saw the helicopters use a Forward Arming and Refuelling Point at the TT circuit in Assen supporting the battalion size Air Assault at the Maarnewaard.
Joint German / Dutch operations 
Falcon Autumn proved the cooperation between both the land and air assets of the DSK, 11LMB and DHC. Experiences and improvements from previous exercises clearly showed off with the helicopters transporting each other’s personnel and equipment. One of the highlights being the the first time a Chinook transported a German Wiesel mark I light armored personnel carrier as under slung load. DSK and 11LMB will be ready as an integrated battalion to support the EUBG in 2020. 
Exercise participants
Country: AF / AR Unit Aircraft: Base:
Germany AR Fallschirmjägerregiment 26   Zweibrücken and Merzig
  AR Fallschirmjägerregiment 31   Seedorf
  AR THR 30 NH90-TTH Niederstetten
Netherlands AR 11 Infanteriebataljon (Air Assault)   Schaarsbergen
  AF 298 squadron CH-47D Gilze-Rijen
  AF 301 squadron AH-64D Gilze-Rijen
  AF 336 squadron C-130H(.30) Eindhoven

AR: Army
AF: Air Force

11 Infanteriebataljon (Air Assault) Garde Grenadiers en Jagers.
The author would like to thank Majors Mark and Ronald as well as the staff of the communication sections of 11LMB and DHC.
Photo gallery
Pathfinders jumping from the Hercules  to prepare the drop and landing zone(s). CDS drop over Deelen by the C-130.
Apache leaving to meet his colleagues.  The Hercules cleared for another drop. Apaches arrived first at the landing zone 
to protect the 'transport package'  who extracted ground forces after completing a mission near Amersfoort
Chinook and NH90 using the "lanes" marked by the pathfinders.  these are set by helicopter type (medium or heavy lift)  and enables the safe boarding by ground forces.
A German army Wiesel light armoured fighting vehicle.  Ground crews working on a Chinook after its return from a mission. Chinook and NH90 on the ground waiting for the next group of soldiers.
Apaches providing cover while the transport helicopters are on the ground disembarking and boarding the soldiers
from DSK and 11 LMB)