VOLCANEX 2005 - The European CSAR on the move

The Allied Command Operations Tactical Leadership Programme (ACO TLP) of Florennes airbase hosted between September 8th and 15th the participants to VOLCANEX 2005, the annual international Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) exercise of the European Air Group (EAG).

European CSAR

Today and more than ever, face to the combined power of the press and the public opinion, none western government can tolerate the exhibition of captured soldiers. In order to avoid the disastrous political and psychological effects of such a event most of the western armed forces have created special units dedicated to search and aerial rescue of combat aircrews and other isolated personnel from hostile or denied areas. Depending on the intervention delay and the involved assets these operations are designated CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue) or Limex (Limited Extraction) - all concepts developed for the first time by the US forces operating in South-East Asia (Korea, Vietnam etc.).

During the large scale military operations of the nineties, in the Balkans or in Iraq, the CSAR missions were almost led by the US, the only nation having currently the potential to practically plan and execute such missions in a high threat environment. Considering that they cannot always benefit from the American support, the European nations have decided the creation of a European CSAR capability by setting up a "European CSAR Centre" responsible for drawing up an appropriate doctrine, ensuring interoperability of assets and organizing the joint training of the personnel involved. The European Air Group and its CSAR action plan is the heartbeat of Europe's progress toward this genuine European CSAR

 AH-64DN Apache, Q-13 of N° 301 Sqn Koninklijke Luchtmacht 

Europe's CSAR challenge is definitely not technological but lies rather in the interoperability difficulties, both in terms of man/machine and, even more important, man/man interfaces. In order to improve interoperability in these fields it was decided by the EAG working group to execute the following series of actions

      € Standardization of hardware;
      € Standardization of training and procedures;
      € Establishment and/or standardization of a "Command & Control structure".

Each activity was further subdivided into several projects. As the projects were developed many of them were amalgamated into one single product, which is currently known as the CSAR Mission Planning Guide (CMPG). Progress on the development of the CMPG was monitored/validated through the annual VOLCANEX Force and Integration and Training event. The final draft of the CMPG is planned for 2006. VOLCANEX exercise brings together the dispersed CSAR embryo capabilities already existing within the EAG Nations and gives them the opportunity to build the knowledge and confidence required to generate a full European CSAR Task Force capability.

French troops embarking EC-725 Cougar Mk.2  2619/330-SC of  EC 05.330/CEAM AdlA


The general concept of VOLCANEX 2005/CSAR was a one week Force Integration Training of the core elements of a Multi National European CSAR Task Force in a low-to-medium threat environment. The main aim of the exercise was to improve the CSAR Mission Planning Guide (CMPG), especially in the field of Rotary Wing Rescort and night extraction. Teams from Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom and three Sweden guests, combined to create complete and realistic packages covering a range of disciplines such as: Rescue Vehicles, Extraction Forces, Attached RESCORT, Detached RESCORT and pilots in the role of Survivors. National Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) instructors support the event through all phases. Since this year¹s training event is set up without any support/integration of other EAG areas, it consists purely of Live Flying Events. All Academics and participants briefings were conducted during a workshop as part of the Main Planning Conference held in May 2005 in Florennes airbase.

Field deployment of CSAR troops from EC-725 Cougar Mk.2  2619/330-SC

The event involved about 170 people and 16 helicopters coming from Belgium, France, Germany & the Netherlands. Currently involved in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United Kingdom and Spain had only delegated a handful of SERE instructors. The most important helicopter contingent was provided by France with no less than four SA.342L/M Gazelle and three SA.330Ba Puma from 5° RHC of Pau and EH 1/67 of Cazaux as well as a single but brand new EC-725 Cougar Mk.2 Resco of the test unit EC 5/330 based at Mont-de-Marsan. For its part Belgium helicopter participation was composed of three A109BA Hirundo of the Wing Heli, Germany with two UH-1D Iroquois of LTG 62 of Holzdorf and the Netherlands with three AH-64DN Apache of 301 Squadron of Gilze-Rijen (see flying participants list). Also involved in the Rescue Combat Air Patrol (Rescap) role were a handful of Belgian F-16AMs of 10 Wing.

French Warrior

For VOLCANEX 2005 the Belgian Ardennes Helicopter Training Facility was split into a northern (blue - friend) and a southern (red - enemy) zone. Dropped by support helicopters in the southern zone the survivors (or supposed downed aircrews) had to contact their home base with their locator system/beacon and then to join the extraction points while avoiding the Belgian Special Forces controlling the area. During our visit the main extraction points were the NATO reserve airfields of Jéhonville (Bertrix) and Saint-Hubert. A helicopter Forward Arming and Refuelling Point (FARP) was established in the Marche-en-Famenne military camp.

UH-1D Huey 71+28 of the Bundesluftwaffe/ LTG 62

A total of three missions - mostly organized at night - were programmed. Nonetheless several of the extraction operations were cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Furthermore, the extraction forces faced not only "enemy" ground troops but also threats from Surface-to-Air (SAMs) systems, generated by EW threat simulators as well as by Smokey SAMs, and Man-portable air defence systems (MANPADs) while attempting to rescue downed aircrew deep in "enemy" territory.

VOLCANEX 2005 - flying participants

A109BA/UH(L)-Tpt  Hirundo   H-20    Wing Heli
A109BA/UH(L)-Tpt  Hirundo   H-24    Wing Heli
A109BA/OH(L)         Hirundo   H-30    Wing Heli

EC-725      Cougar Mk.2  2619/330-SC  AdlA/ EC 05.330/CEAM
SA.330Ba  Puma           1311/AF          AdlA/ EH 01.067
SA.330Ba  Puma           1321/AH          AdlA/ EH 01.067
SA.330Ba  Puma           1247/BRV       ALAT/ 5 RHC
SA.342M   Gazelle         3938/BPO       ALAT/ 5 RHC
SA.342M   Gazelle         4079/BOF       ALAT/ 5 RHC
SA.342L   Gazelle          4213/BQN      ALAT/ 5 RHC
SA.342L   Gazelle          4219/BQU      ALAT/ 5 RHC

French Armée de Terre SA.342L Gazelle 4213/BQN of 5 RHC

UH-1D Huey     71+28    Bundesluftwaffe/ LTG 62
UH-1D Huey     71+60    Bundesluftwaffe/ LTG 62

The Netherlands
AH-64DN Apache   Q-13   KLu/ 301 Sqn  
AH-64DN Apache   Q-22   KLu/ 301 Sqn
AH-64DN Apache   Q-30   KLu/ 301 Sqn


© Vincent Pirard - AviaScribe (September 2005)


The author would like to thank the COMOPSAIR-IRP team as well as Group Captain David Blore, Lieutenant Kolonel Hennick and Commandant Pascal Borie of the EAG

Last updated 24/09/05 10:32   Daniel Brackx