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VBS 2 - Canadian Forces Winged Warrior Exercise

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Winged Warrior 2010

Exercise Winged Warrior once again offered some pre-deployment training for the next rotation of personnel from 430 (Tactical Helicopter) Squadron, based at Valcartier, Que. who are headed for Afghanistan.

The exercise, based in virtual reality using high tech simulation, was set in contemporary Afghanistan and challenged CH-146 Griffon and CH-147 Chinook helicopter crews with a variety of scenarios and the "unexpected" that comes with operating in a hostile environment.

The simulated environment gained another level of realism at this year’s exercise by increasing involvement by other nations including Germany and the United Kingdom.

Lieutenant-Colonel Rudolf Fendt, a squadron commander in Germany, along with Lieutenant-Colonel Christoph Hegele from the German Army, came to observe the exercise from a simulation standpoint.

“We are trying to get as much information about the exercise as possible,” said LCol Hegele. “I have never personally worked with the Canadian Forces before, and I am very impressed with the organization here. For us to reach this level of organization would take a lot of work, but it’s a goal for us to reach the level you have.”

While the German forces have been a strong coalition force in Afghanistan, they admittedly do not have the same “work-up” training as the CF. They observed the simulation portion of the training in order to bring back the lessons 1 Wing Kingston has learned.

Colonel Christopher Coates, 1 Wing Kingston Commander, invited other nations to the exercise in order to increase the level of realism, as Canadians work with coalition forces in Afghanistan. He also knows how valuable a training tool Ex Winged Warrior is, and was eager to share the knowledge that can be gained by such an experience. LCol Fendt saw the potential to learn as soon as he found out about Ex Winged Warrior and contacted Col Coates through European military channels in order to participate.

“We would like to introduce simulation for [our] NH 90 [helicopters] being sent to Afghanistan, so we [wanted] to see what the CF [was] doing in terms of simulated training that we haven’t learned yet,” LCol Fendt said.

Two officers from the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom, Flight-Lieutenant Steve Hewer and Captain Neil Simons, participated in the exercise as Chinook helicopter experts and pilots. Although they say there are similar training exercises in the UK, the Canadian exercise is advantageous because it trains everyone at the same time, including commanders and aviators.

“That’s an improvement here, because [the exercise] trains everyone from high command all the way down to the crews. That’s an advantage, because you know everyone has been put through the paces. We train our components separately, and augment them in theatre, making our headquarters there a mish-mash of personnel,” Flight-Lieutenant Hewer said.

Another added benefit of Ex Winged Warrior, says Col Coates, is it gives crews the chance to fly their respective types of helicopters together in a simulated environment before having to do it in Afghanistan.

“It’s pretty hard to train aircrew on a platform which Canada doesn’t possess on home soil. This is the only chance Griffon and Chinook crews have to fly together before they arrive in theatre,” said Col Coates.

The exercise has been so successful that the British forces hope to return for the next Winged Warrior exercise, with even greater expectations than this time.

“I would like to see [even greater] British participation for the next Winged Warrior. I would like to send a Merlin crew, an Apache, and maybe a Sea King, but that might be tough to accomplish,” said Flight-Lieutenant Hewer.

Ex Winged Warrior originated as a live-flying, live-firing event in 1981 as the final performance check of the Advanced Aviation Course. It still serves this function for the now Advanced Tactical Aviation Course but was converted from a live to a synthetic environment in 2006. The latest version of the exercise served solely as a step towards achieving a state of high readiness for the next rotation of CF personnel headed for Afghanistan, which includes tactical helicopter personnel from 430 (TH) Sqn.

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