Low flying exercise "Poppy Red"

by Jos Schoofs

On May 13th, during exercise “Poppy Red”, the Air and Land Component gave a demonstration of the combined work of Close Air Support (CAS) aircraft and Forward Air Controllers (FAC). Close air support aircraft give fire support to own troops close to the frontline by attacking enemy positions posing a direct threat to them. Such attacks are performed at airspeeds of around 500 knots, making it a difficult task for the pilot to distinguish between own and enemy troops, which are close together at the frontline. It is the forward air controller’s responsibility to guide the attacking aircraft in such a precise way that casualties due to friendly fire are excluded. Accordingly, they operate from hideouts within visual range of the targets and guide the pilots by radio in describing the targets’ position with reference to a number of clear landmarks. Once the target is identified with cast-iron certainty, the attack is executed. Such attacks can be performed from low or medium altitude, depending on the weapons used and the threats present.

Forward Air Controller

Adjt Pierre Bodart, forward air controller, in action at Saint-Hubert during exercise Poppy Red.

Photo Jos Schoofs

 It goes without saying that such joint procedures have to be practised regularly. For this purpose, a number of exercises are conducted at regular intervals at various locations in the Ardennes or at the Elsenborn shooting range when training munitions are used. All these exercises are meticulously prepared during lengthy briefings preceding each and every sortie. Throughout the entire flight the pilots have to strictly respect minimum safety altitudes. With the newly acquired Flight Profile Recorder, each training sortie is analysed ex post in detail and the respect of the stringent safety regulations is checked strictly. 

F-16AM FA-120

The missile-like instrument on the starboard wingtip is the airborne part of the Flight Profile Recorder (FPR).

Photo Jos Schoofs


The Flight Profile Recorder (FPR) at No. 350 Sqn, 2 Wing, Florennes air base.

Photo Dirk A. Geerts

Last updated 28/12/11 13:29   Daniel Brackx