European Air Group Exercise VOLCANEX 03


Agusta A109HA

Belgian Agusta A109HA H22 taking off from Florennes airbase as part of the Volcanex (CSAR) exercise.

Exercise VOLCANEX 03 was a two-week long, multinational Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) and Communications and Information Systems (CIS) exercise which took place at Florennes Air Base, Belgium from 1 to 12 September 2003.  The event was organised by the European Air Group (EAG) and involved over 200 people, from seven countries, supporting 7 types of aircraft flying in over 90 multi-phased sorties.  The participants faced “enemy” ground troops, threats from Surface-to-Air missiles (SAMs) and Man-portable air defence systems (MANPADs) while attempting to rescue downed aircrew deep in enemy territory.

 Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR)

 The aim of this annual exercise, which is unique across the world’s air forces, is to improve mutual understanding and practical cooperation between the EAG nations, to increase the level of interoperability in CSAR missions. Teams from Belgium, Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Spain and the UK combined to create complete and realistic packages covering a range of disciplines, such as Rescue Vehicles, Attached and Detached RESCORT, Extraction Forces, SERE and Intelligence. 

 Communications and Information Systems (CIS)

In addition, engineering teams created a CIS architecture, which successfully replicated the Command and Control requirements necessary to deploy an operational, out-of-area CAOC and link it back to not only the European Headquarters, but also the military networks of each participating nation.  This impressive accomplishment was achieved after only 4 days, using both satellites and land-based, state of the art equipment.  The teams were able to provide a complete picture of the executed missions and send it back to the headquarters in Pratica di Mare (Italy), as would be necessary in a real-time operational scenario.



This exercise brought together the following assets: 

  • Belgian F-16 and A-109 Agustas
  • Dutch AH-64D Apaches
  • German UH1-D Hueys
  • Spanish Super Pumas
  • French Army and Air Force Gazelles and Pumas
  • Spanish, French and Belgian Extraction Forces
  • Spanish, French, Belgian, British, German and Dutch Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School personnel
  • Belgian, French and German opposing forces (OPFOR)
  • Spanish, French, Belgian, British, German and Italian CIS personnel and equipment
  • Observers from all EAG nations


AS.332F Super Puma

Fuerza Aerea Española AS.332F Super Puma (HD.21) HD21-9 taking on board combat troops for the highly realistic CSAR exercise.

Eurocopter SA-342M

Several French Armée de Terre Eurocopter SA-342M Gazelle helicopters were used as observation/recce platforms.

French Para-trooper

The real essence of the EAG exercise; a French special combat trooper is discussing the next mission with a Luftwaffe Bell UH-1D Huey helicopter pilot and gunner.

Text and pictures by

Daniel Brackx

The European Air Group

The European Air Group (EAG) is an organisation grouping seven European Air Force (U.K., France, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain and Germany) created to improve the operational capabilities of the parties Air Forces to carry out operations in pursuit of shared interests, primarily through mechanisms which enhance interoperability.


Last updated 11/07/05 10:52   Daniel Brackx