Serpentex is an annual, multi-national training event hosted by the French Air Force. It's primary goal is to train joint terminal attack controllers and fighter jets in close air support missions. These missions occur whenever ground troops are in close proximity to their targets and require close integration between ground and air forces. The exercise lasted from 25 November until 13 December 2013, whereby some 800 soldiers from eight different countries : Canada, United Kingdom, United States, Spain, Italy , Belgium, the Czech Republic and Slovenia who will train with the French to achieve operational readiness.
Participating aircraft at Solenzara consisted of French Air Force Rafales from BA Mont-de-Marsan and BA St.Dizier, French Mirage 2000D from BA Nancy. From Canada 6 CF-18 fighters were deployed during the first 2 weeks of the exercise, with a CP-140 Aurora flying from Sigonella airbase in Italy. Spanish F-18 aircraft flew from their homebase in Spain during the first week of the exercise.
The aim of the exercise was to train both air and ground forces in Forward Air Control and Close Air Support.
For the first time a remote piloted MQ-9 "Predator B" of the Italian Air Force has flown in the airspace a foreign country - on the basis of a bilateral agreement between Italy and France. The aircraft Italian is in fact taken off from the military airport of Amendola (Italy) home of the 32th Stormo, and then going through an air corridor across borders and conduct ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions over the skies of Corsica. After a mission, the "Predator B", which can fly for over 24 hours continuously, landed again at Amendola airbase. The participation of the MQ-9 represents a valuable opportunity for training of crews , who will be in supporting ground troops in a non-permissive environment, which for the FAC (Forward Air Controller) present in the areas of operation, which may use the images transmitted in real-time devices ROVER (Remote Operational Video Enhanced Receiver) in order to increase the so-called "situational awareness."
To support this multi-national controllers' training, the CF-18 Hornet detachment from 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, typically flew four missions daily for a total of 52 missions throughout the exercise.
A CP-140 Aurora from 405 Long Range Squadron, located at 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, flew three missions from its base in Sigonella, Italy to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support to allied forces.
A team in the deployed mission support centre collected full motion video from the Aurora, which was analyzed by experts to provide a clear picture of what was happening on the ground. The mission support centre was also able to link to near-real time sniper pod footage provided by the CF-18s.
Over the Diane Range at Solenzara, CF-18 Hornets from 4 Wing dropped training bombs and fired rounds on multiple targets during a close air support mission, which tested their ability to integrate with joint terminal attack controllers from both the Canadian Army and participating nations.
All of these Canadian air assets were operating under the control of the Royal Canadian Air Force's air expeditionary wing.
"One of the RCAF's goals for Serpentex was to exercise it new expeditionary capability and command and control structure as a full air task force," said Lieutenant-Colonel Girouard (Canada). "This was a very successful 'proof of concept' for a newly-formalized construct, and we only look ahead at growing and improving this capability to support overseas, domestic or contingency deployments
"The purpose of our participation in Serpentex is to conduct multi-national [close air support] training," said Major Aaron Macluskie, a CF-18 pilot and the Canadian senior national representative at Serpentex. "This is a unique opportunity for both our CF-18 pilots and our Canadian [joint terminal attack controllers] to train with other nations, and to confirm our procedures for operating within a coalition."
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