Royal Blackhawk 2020 exercise, France
This year the 1st Regiment of Artillery of Bourogne organized the "Royal Black Hawk 2020" exercise. More than 400 soldiers, a dozen combat helicopters partcipated in this life-size exercise.
This year it was the eight edition of this exercise and it has a very interesting history. It was a French cadet from the French Army that met a cadet from West Point in the USA. And while they were at school, they were looking for somedeals, and as a joke they said that they want to organize an exercise together in the future. And what started as a joke became reality in 2013 when the first“Royal Black Hawk” exercise was held
Since 2013, the Royal Blackhawk is an annual air combat exercise organized by the 1st RA in the territory of Belfort and its surroundings for about two weeks. It brought together foreign aircraft and teams of air-ground support specialists which enables units of the regiment to maintain their operational capabilities. This year, nationalities combined with more than 400 French, Belgian and British soldiers, engineers, artillery, infantry and also combat helicopters of the French and United States Army. The helicopters of the 1st Combat Helicopter Regiment were able to fly alongside the different helicopters of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (U.S. Army).
Like every year, the exercise remains realistic and faithful to its objectives, thus making it possible to train the mortar sections. The teams of observers and the maneuver troops are participating in their core business: Air assault, MEDEVAC, Close Combat Attack, Close Air Support via JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers), forward air traffic controllers. This while offering the opportunity to experiment with new innovative procedures and gained know-how.
FRENCH ARMY IT WAS ALSO AN OPPORTUNITY TO TRAIN WITH THEIR ALLIES ACCORDING TO STANDARD
NATO PROCEDURES USED IN OPERATIONS. THIS EXERCISE IS WELL ESTABLISHED IN
ITS REGION WITH TRAINING PHASES IN THE AREA BETWEEN BELFORT, BESANCON AND
The 1st Combat helicopter regiment participated with two NH90 Caïman and two EC665 Tiger helicopters. Besides the helicopters of the French army also the french air force oparticipted in this exercsie with some dassault Mirage 2000Ds from BA133 Nancy and Dassault Rafales from BA113 Saint-dizier. the french navy provided an atl2 from the 21f flotille based at ban lorient/lahn-bihoué to the royal blackhawk exercise. the u.s. army in europe had sent 4 ah-64D apaches, 2 uh-60m blackhawks and two ch-47f chinook of the 12th combat aviation brigade to this exercise. the apaches and chinooks are based at ansbach and the uh-60m blackhawks are based at wiersbaden airfield in Germany.
ON WEDNESDAY THE 14TH OF OCTOBER, THE CITADEL OF BELFORT WAS TAKEN BY SOLDIERS. THIS WAS AN EXERCISE IN CIVILIAN SETTINGS WITH GROUND TROOPS AND HELICOPTERS. THE FRANCO-AMERICAN COLLABORATION FOR THE SCENARIO ALLOWS THE FRENCH TROOPS TO TRAIN IN GOOD CONDITIONS.
It was difficult in such a short time to integrate the declinations of the Chief of the French Army (CEMAT) strategic vision on high intensity. The capture of a village on the 21st of October was, moreover, carried out with a favorable ratio of 3 to 1 in terms of manpower, but it is the trend that counts: edition after edition, realism increases, and this is the interest of the 1st RA, whose major equipment, the rocket launcher unit (LRU), capable of striking regardless of weather conditions at a distance of 80 km, is one of the elements per excellence of high intensity. The U.S. Army's helicopters are also more self-protected than the French helicopters, with a much better passenger carrying capacity on the Chinook than on the NH90 Caïman.
during the exercise one of the ch-47s also illustrated the capacity of a 120mm piece of mortar to be carried in its hold, with about fifteen servants and protective elements. the caïman still cannot do it as the original floor is to fragile. there ios a study being carried out for it being able to do so in the long term. the artillerymen of the 1st ra know that their LRU will take its time, even if, as a remnant of the cold war, there was a few operation issues: in the sahel, with only about ten rockets fired. Nevertheless, the regiment maintains personnel in self-replacement in the sahel for the protection of the forward operating bases, and in lebanon, for the counter-battery radar cobra: it remain, more than ever, at the heart of the operations.
We have spoken with Major Antonides from the 12th CAB and captain guillaume of the 1st RA about the exercise and theuir experiences.
Major Antonides who is pilot on the Ah-64d apache at the 12th CB who has about 1600 flight hours on the apache helicopter and is in service within the u.s. army since 2008. major antonides told about this exercise and the tasks of the apaches during this exercise. The main task was to support the nato allies and help them to facilitate some of their training. majorr nanonides: "We did that trough interoperability training speaking with the jtac's from the UK, belgium and france on the ground. it's reaalym great for us to talk someone on the ground and just work on those skills especially with our nato allies".
For the Apache pilots it was great that they brought the third dimension to this exercise. So for example for the Artillery Regiment, as they normally work strictly on the ground and they know that they are good in working together with the other ground forces but now they had a third element in the air and that they also have to know this third element in the air could deconflict in real war. Major Antonides: “Of course they can shoot their artillery but with the Apaches in the air we can add extra firepower to the scenario and we can also add some complexity for their training and that they have to think about another assets out there”.
Capt. Guillaume of the 1st RA who is the organizer of this exercise told about the future plans of the exercise. Capt. Guillaume: “For next year I would like to improve a little bit. For me the improvement would be to have participation of the French Reaper UAV drone. I asked to have them for this year but due to the task of their mission they were not able, but I really hope that they will be available in 2021 and I would like to enforce a bit the enemy too make some bigger operation at some part of the exercise”.
We would like to thank Press Officer Gabriel, Major Antonides, Capt. Guillaume and the crews of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and the 1er RHC for their hospitality and all their help during our visit.