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EDA's final Hot Blade exercise lifts off in Portugal

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Photo: © European Defence Agency

Photo: © European Defence Agency

A total of 23 air assets and some 750 military personnel from eight countries – Austria, Belgium, Czechia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Portugal – participated in Hot Blade 2023, hosted by the Portuguese Air Force. In addition, Greece and Italy sent exercise observers. The air assets comprised 13 helicopters and 10 fixed wings, including training and transport aircrafts and fast jets.

The exercise’s main focus was to allow crews to practice operations in various environments during day and night sorties, replicating the challenging conditions that participant forces are expected to encounter when deploying to different theatres of operation.

This was the last Hot Blade exercise delivered by the European Defence Agency. From 2024, the Multinational Helicopter Training Centre (MHTC) will be in charge of this activity, whose current planning already extends into the next decade.

Hot Blade 2023’s main objectives are:

  • To enhance tactical interoperability between helicopter units from the participating countries by using the COMAO concept in a combined, joint, realistic and challenging environment and to learn and practice common helicopter Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs);
  • To train and practise TTPs with and against fighter jets and electronic ground warfare threats;
  • To improve interoperability in training and operational tasks with ground forces involvement (Night Vision Goggles -NVG- operations, low level flying, formation flights, Forward Arming and Refuelling Point training, gunnery, etc…) in a live and full spectrum environment.


Participating crews will fly diverse COMAO missions and execute, among others, Air Assault (AA), Air Interdiction (AI), Air Transport (AT), Special Operations Aviation (SOA), Combat Service Support (CSS), Close Air Support (CAS), Convoy/helicopter escorts, Reconnaissance and Surveillance, Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Personnel Recovery (PR), Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) and Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC).

They will also train special procedures, which involve air assets like marshalling procedures, fast rope and abseiling techniques, Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction (SPIE), and air-to-surface live firing.

Hot Blade 2023 will also provide opportunities to practice multinational and national formation and training with the Special Operations Forces (SOF) units (infiltration and exfiltration) and enhance crews’ skills in using the HEP Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and COMAO planning procedures in the conduct of flight planning and operations, with the aim of standardise the training and foster the multinational interoperability levels of all the participants.

Eight instructors from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden trained in EDA’s Helicopter Tactics Instructors Course accompanied with an Instructor from the Netherlands trained on the Dutch Helicopter Weapons Instructor course, and led by EDA´s Chief Instructor, will jointly form the Hot Blade 2023 Mentor Team, ready to support the multinational crews in preparation and execution of the challenging COMAO missions. This mentoring role will consider the lessons learned from previous “Blade” exercises and operational experience.

A Distinguished Visitors Day was also planned for representatives from participating EDA Member States plus other national and international authorities to observe various live training sessions.

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