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Exercise Dark Blade 2019
Latest update: August 2019
The European Defence Agency (EDA), an intergovernmental agency of the Council of the European Union, organizes a series of “Blade” exercises under the Helicopter Exercise Program (HEP) for its member nations (see table below) . Each of the “Blade” exercises is hosted by one of these countries. The 13th exercise “Dark Blade” was hosted by the Czech Air Force at its 22. základna vrtulníkového letectva Vzdušných sil AČR v Náměšti nad Oslavou (22nd Helicopter Air Base based at Náměšt nad Oslavou). Assigned to 22nd HAB are 221. "tygří" vrtulníková letka (22.vrl - “Tiger” helicopter squadron) operating the Mil Mi-24/35 Hind attack helicopters and the Mil Mi-171Sh Hip transport helicopter. Sister squadron 222. vrtulníková letka (222.vrl – helicopter squadron) operates Mi-171Sh
Combined Air Operations (COMAO)
Bringing together many helicopters from different types and countries provides the opportunity to execute Combined Air Operations missions. Currently all international peacekeeping missions are conducted under EU, UN or NATO mandate and sees a variety of transport, medevac or attack helicopters operate together to safely conduct the assigned task(s).
Exercise Dark Blade provided for realistic missions to prepare the participating crews to operate together within CAMAO missions. The scenarios also offered dynamic land and airborne situations in a real environment as well as providing training as requested by the individual participants. This was for instance done by the Belgian Air and Land Components. A flight consisting of one Agusta A109 and one NH90 Caiman operated together conducting the tactical insertion of a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) team of five persons from the artillery battalion. The Agusta served as observer aircraft, performed the reconnaissance of the landing zone and protected the Caiman while it was on the ground executing the insertion. Dark Blade provided the Czech armed forces the opportunity to plan and experience CAMAO missions, its multinational environment planning and conduct training with a variety of foreign helicopter types.
Dark Blade missions
The Dark Blade missions were mostly flown in the afternoon and evening. Among other locations the Czech Air and Land forces used their military areas Boletice, Březina and Bechyně. At the later two Forward Arming and Refuelling Points (FARP) were established.

Scenarios were split between: CAMAO, Night Vision Goggles (NVG) flights, Air Transport (AT), Fast Rope and Hoisting (FR&P), Close Air Support (CAS), Live firing, Medical evacuation/Casualty evacuation (MEDEVAC/CASEVAC) and Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) neutralization and evasion
Country Aircraft No. Squadron Home base
Belgium A109BA 3 1 Wing Beauvechain
  NH90-TTH 3 1 Wing Beauvechain
Czech Republic Mi-24V / Mi-35 4 221.vl Náměšť nad Oslavou
  Mi-171Sh 4 222.vl Náměšť nad Oslavou
  L-159A 4 212.tl Čáslav
Germany CH-53GS 3 HSG 64 Laupheim
Hungary Mi-17 2 MH.86 HE Szolnok
  Mi-24P 3 MH.86 HE Szolnok
Poland W-3AE 1 PJEM Tomaszów Mazowiecki
Slovenia AS532AL 1 151. Helikopterska eskadrilja Cerklje ob Krki
  Bell412 1 151. Helikopterska eskadrilja Cerklje ob Krki
Total   29


The four L-159A ALCA light multipurpose single-seat subsonic combat aircraft operated from their home base.

Supporting the Dark Blade exercise were more than 800 Czech army personnel and more than 300 EU personnel. The European Defence Agency provided 6-9 mentors from Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. Furthermore the Netherlands and UK provided mentors for Electronic Warfare. Italy send two observers.
EDA member nations
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Currently Denmark is the only country of the 28 EU member states not participating in EDA. The EDA signed Administrative Arrangements with Norway (2006), Switzerland (2012), the Republic of Serbia (2013) and Ukraine (2015) enabling them to participate in EDA’s projects and programmes.
Photo gallery
Belgian Air Component A109BA Belgian Air Component NH90-TTH Czech Air Force Mi-35
 Czech Air Force Mi-171Sh   German Air Force CH-53G. Hungarian Air Force Mi-17 
Hungarian Air Force Mi-24D Polish Air Force W-3AW   
The author would like to thank the Czech Air Force for their hospitality during the visit.