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Exercise Falcon Autumn 2022
Latest update: April 2023
Falcon Autumn
Falcon Autumn is an exercise organized by Royal Netherlands Army (RNLA) 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade (11LMB, 11 Air Mobile Brigade). Every two-year Falcon Autumn takes places in the October / November timeframe. 11LMB is organized into 11, 12 and 13 infantry battalions and six companies: 11 brigade reconnaissance squadron (11 BRS), 11 Engineering Company, 11 Recovery Company, 11 Supply Company, 11 Medical Company, 11 Staff Staff Company. Furthermore, RNLA reserve battalion 20 NATRES is organized within 11LMB.

The RNLA has eight exercise levels ranging from level 1 for the individual soldier until level 8 which is held on corps level. During the course of a year level 2 (group 3-8 soldiers), level 3 (platoon 20-60 soldiers), level 4 (company 100-150 soldiers) are organized by all 11LMB units. The Level 5 and level 6 exercise, respectively on battalion or brigade level (400 – 2000 and 3.000 – 4.000 soldiers) are run every two years. These exercises are named Falcon after the 11LMB crest, a praying falcon with 2 crossed swords below in a wine-red shield.

As part of international cooperation between the German and Netherlands armies 11LMB became a subordinate unit to the German Armies Rapid Reaction Division (DSK - Division Schnelle Kräfte) on June 12. 2014.
Division Schnelle Kräfte and 11 Air Manoeuvre Brigade
11LMB works closely together with Royal Netherland Air Force helicopter and transport squadrons. Operating from Eindhoven 336 squadron operates four C-130H Hercules transport aircraft. Stationed at Gilze-Rijen 298 squadron, 300 squadron and 301 squadron are assigned the CH-47F Chinook, AS532U2 Cougar and AH-64D Apache respectively. Based at de Kooy is 860 squadron with the NH90-NFH. All helicopter squadrons are subordinate to the Defence Helicopter Command. These squadrons support 11LMB with their air mobile operations. During the level 5 or higher exercise 11LMB and the DHC squadrons are transformed into 11 Air Manoeuvre Brigade (11 AMB).

The Germans have a different organization with two transport helicopter regiments (THR 10 and TR 30 equipped with the NH90-TTH) and one attack helicopter regiment (KHR 36 assigned the Tiger) directly commanded by the DSK. During joint exercises the DSK and DHC train to standardize helicopter operations which enables German soldiers or material being transported by Dutch helicopters and vice versa.
11LMB commanding general Scheurs took part in the air assault at Ossesluis and spoke with Dutch media.
Falcon exercises
Falcon exercises are organized annually or very two years. They aim at different training scenarios for the participating air mobile units. Falcon Leap is held annually in September and focuses on two topics. The first week dedicated to rigging pallets for air drop missions and the second week on conducting paradrops. Falcon Autumn is organized every two years. One of the infantry battalions is trained in the whole spectrum of air mobile operations. To achieve its goals the battalion is supported by other companies of 11 LMB. International air mobile forces also participate in the exercise. During the 2018 exercise several DSK companies integrated with 11LMB companies, the 2022 exercise saw a Polish company integrated within 13 infantry battalion.
Falcon Autumn scenario, actions and FARP
11LMB / 11AMB can be tasked with several missions. These can range from a RAID where an action is conducted for a few hours to an Air Assault where during a few days’ objects must be attacked and secured until being relieved by colleague army units.

The main scenario for Falcon Autumn 2022 was an invasion in a country resembling The Netherlands. A multinational task force deployed to liberate the country. Within this setting 11 AMB was tasked to conquer vital objects like bridges and airfields. The aviation element was set up at the currently defunct De Peel air base which is now part of the Lt.Gen. Best barracks of the RNLA Defense Ground-based Air Defense Command. All DHC squadrons deployed to the base and were reinforced by three Polish Army Mi-8 Hips transport aircraft. United States Army Europe and Africa deployed three companies of its 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (12 CAB).  13 infantry battalion, the Polish company and 11 LMB support companies operated from a bivouac at the Arnhemse heide. In support of helicopter operations three Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARP) were set up. Deelen air base was used as staging base for the helicopters to pick up and drop off soldiers and material. A FARP was set up here as well as at the adjacent Arnhemse heide. The third FARP (named Charlie) was set up at the Ginkelse heide. A well-known low flying and training area for both 11 LMB and DHC. At a later stage the FARP at the Arnhemse heide was dismantled and moved north to ASK ‘t Harde.

During the first week actions were limited. On the ground soldiers prepared themselves for the fight while members of 11 Supply Company trained sling load operations with 12 CAB Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters. The Polish Mi-8’s flew familiarization flights with their Dutch colleagues. These saw them using FARP Charlie. Contrary to the Dutch helicopters which trained hot pit refueling operations the Mi-8’s turned off their engines for refueling. In the second week the air mobile actions commenced leading to the first large scale action of Falcon Autumn. Almost all actions would take place in the northern part of The Netherlands
Air Assault at Ossesluis
Three bridges and a lock at Ossesluis, municipality de Wijk in the province of Drenthe were the target for a large air assault operation. Approximately 20 helicopters supported the operations. Starting at the end of the morning and continuing throughout the afternoon. First on the scene were two 12 CAB AH-64D's equipped with the AN/APG-78 Longbow Fire Control Radar (FCR). Developed for the D-model the FCR performs wide area search, precise detection, location and classification of up to 256 simultaneous moving and stationary targets. It then selects the top 16 targets for evaluation and engagement (when desired). Both flew a pattern and called in the main force when it was deemed save for them to insert the soldiers. Three landing zones were used. Dutch soldiers were tasked to conquer the lock while roughly 3 kilometers to the east the Polish company engaged a bridge. Roughly one kilometer south of the lock the third group landed. Detached with the infantry soldiers were soldiers of 11 Engineering Company. These were tasked with clearing mines, explosive charges, improvised explosive device (IED) etc. Opposing forces had attached explosive charges to the objectives. While soldiers on the ground were busy engaging the enemy the helicopters returned to Deelen. Here sling loads had already been prepared by teams of 11 Supply Company and 12 CAB. These were flown in by Dutch Chinooks during the second wave and on the southern LZ. With the lock and bridges conquered and secured a Dutch NH90-NFH arrived. It was tasked with Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC). Flying from LZ to LZ it picked up all personnel to be transported to a field hospital. The third wave of the day brought in reinforcements of personnel as well as vehicles. With 13 infantry battalion and the Polish company securing their objectives, they started to establish a perimeter. The long night started with the soldiers tasked to hold their position until being relived the next day by 13 Light Brigade (which did not actually take part in the exercise). In the morning the helicopters, this time without the Apaches, returned to Ossesluis. Soldiers boarded the helicopters; sling loads were attached and personnel and material were flown back to Deelen air base and the Arnhemse heide. Time to prepare for the next actions the exercise planners had written in the scenario.
Air Assault at Drachten airport
The assault on Drachten airport started in the evening of Wednesday 9 November. Pathfinders and members of first and second platoon 11 BRS were inserted into the Drachten area of operations. From there they advanced to the airport to gather intelligence for the main force. Their operations started a day later. Again, in the dark. It marked the last actions of 12 CAB who would leave the next day. By Friday morning the airfield was brought under control of 13 infantry battalion and the Polish colleagues and turned into a Forward Operating Base. At the FOB the pathfinders set out LZ’s for the helicopters who would pick up the Polish company. Two Chinook, Two Cougar, a Mi-8T, a Mi-8MT and two Apaches arrived. After refueling the Apaches headed out to clear the way of their colleagues while the Polish soldiers started boarding the transport helicopters. Tasked with a RAID at Havelte their action would take a few hours. In the meantime, the helicopters returned to FOB Drachten and waited until being recalled start the extraction of the Polish company. As 11LMB was relieved by a colleague army unit (‘paper’ exercise) 11LMB was extracted from FOB Drachten on Saturday morning. Because of the weather circumstances the planned two waves (one personnel, one sling load) was reduced to only transporting the soldiers back to Deelen air base.
Chinook arriving at Drachten with a load  11LMB pathfinder in front of an Apache   Helicopters being prepared for action 
Vehicles, tents, rifles at FOB Drachten from where several actions took place by Dutch and Polish airborne soldiers
Armored vehicle at Drachten  Polish company preparing for their RAID  and heading to the helicopters
During Falcon Autumn four FARP’s were established. FARP Arnhemse heide was only used by the USAR helicopters. FARP Charlie saw all Dutch helicopters as well as the Polish Hips. A FARP is used to provide fuel and/or armament to the helicopters. It saves them a flight back to their home or forward deployed base. Refueling trucks were located on the heath. Roughly seven minutes before landing at a FARP the aircrews called in. They were marshalled next to the refueling trucks by FARP personnel. All Dutch helicopters made use of hot pit refueling. The Apache, Cougar, Chinook and NH90 helicopters kept running their engine and when refueling was completed left the FARP. The Polish Mi-8’s turned off their engines with the aircrews completing some other tasks while on the ground. During the first days of Falcon Autumn the FARPS’s were used to practice refueling operations. It’s not uncommon for the DHC to use hot pit refueling at Gilze-Rijen air base but refueling outside an air base or airport is not done very often. As soon as Falcon Autumn started the FARPS’ were visited when needed by the helicopters when returning from their mission. Either going back to the area of operations or continuing to De Peel air base.
A Cougar arrives at the FARP Followed by a Mi-8MT Hip which flew together with a NH-90NFH
The NH90 during its departure
and the HIP during its arrival
NH90 keeping an eye on its Polish colleagues 
Bowsers at the Ginkelse heide waiting for helicopters to arrivev  On-scene commander with a Polish Mi- being refueled in the background. Arrival of one of the two Polish Hips in winter sun light. 
Approaching the FARP  Engine shut of during refueling ops.  Departure back to De Peel.
Main Army and Air Force participants
Country Operator Squadron, regiment Base Helicopter No.
Netherlands AF 298 sqn Gilze-Rijen CH-47F 4
    300 sqn Gilze-Rijen AS532-U2 2
    301 sqn Gilze-Rijen AH-64D 4
    336  sqn Eindhoven C-130H(.30)  
    860 sqn De Kooy NH90-NFH 2
  AR 11 LMB, HQ staff Schaarsbergen    
    11 Infantry Battalion staff Schaarsbergen    
    11 Supply Company Schaarsbergen    
    11 Maintenance Company Schaarsbergen    
    11 Medical Company Assen    
    11 Brigade Reconnaissance Sqn Schaarsbergen    
    13 Infantry Battalion AssenLeznica-Wielka Mi-8T, Mi-8MT 2 / 1
Poland AR 1st Aviation Brigade      
    Infantry company      
United States AR A/B/C 1-3 ARB Ansbach AH-64D 6
    A/1-214 GSAB Wiesbaden UH-60M 8
    B/1-214 GSAB Ansbach CH-47F 5

Not included in above table are: 336 squadron (C-130H), 313/322 squadron (F-35A), 312 squadron (F-16AM) and civilian contractor Skyline (L-39). Also not included are several AR and AF units providing support.
298 squadron departing De Peel. 300 squadron at Drachten.  301 squadron at Drachten. 
860 squadron at FARP Ginkelse heide. ?/1-3 ARB AH-64D departing De Peel.  1st aviation brigade at Ginkelse heide.
 A/1-214 GSAB UH-60M at Ossesluis.   B/1-214 GSAB CH-47F at Ossesluis.    
11LMB into 2023
Falcon Autumn certified 13 Infantry Battalion for operations. Either its companies or the whole battalion can deploy when they are being called for deployment.

11LMB is a heavily tasked brigade which in the current European security conditions will not change. Its infantry companies are deployed on a rotational basis to the Caribbean, Iraq and most recently in support of NATO to Romania. There together with France and the United States, 11LMB trains with their Romanian colleagues to reassure their NATO ally as well as deterring Russia from commencing operations on NATO territory. Except these operations companies from all branches are training around the globe with their (air mobile) partners. For instance, in the United States with the 82nd Airborne Brigade. Maintaining their proficiency in mountain training (Austria, Scotland), jungle training (Suriname), cold weather training (Norway). Large scale exercise like Falcon Autumn as well as the specialized training is needed to integrate NATO forces and enhance interoperability in joined operations.

Under normal circumstances they next Falcon Autumn will be organized in October/November 2024

The author wishes to thank 11LMB and Maj. Maarten for their hospitality.