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“Jolly Vihar” in Pápa

Text: First Lieutenant Botond Hunor Mátyás | Photo: Sergeant Georgina Cser Csiginé |  14:14 August 8, 2022

The US Air Force 56th Rescue Squadron conducted a military exercise at the HDF Pápa Air Base in Hungary between 11–22 July.

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Pápa Air Base was recently noisy with the specially equipped HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters of US Air Force Europe’s Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) unit, the 56th Rescue Generation Squadron stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Captain János Koch, Duty Supervisor, Air Traffic Control Centre, HDF Pápa Air Base informed us about the details of the exercise.

He told us that the idea of potential cooperation on a joint exercise between the Heavy Airlift Wing and the pararescue personnel of the 57th Rescue Squadron, also stationed in Aviano, had already come up in 2020. Codenamed “Turul Partner”, that exercise was being conducted within tight constraints due to the emerging coronavirus pandemic, and was to be cancelled outright in 2021. Meanwhile, during a pre-deployment site survey, the 56th Rescue Generation Squadron agreed with the leaders of HDF Pápa Air Base that the two organizations would support each other’s training objectives. This was how the organization of Exercise Jolly Vihar 2022 started.

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During Jolly Vihar 2022, three HH-60G Pave Hawk (a version of UH-60 Black Hawk converted to SAR capability) helicopters flew to Pápa airbase to conduct live fire exercises on the HDF Central Training Area and Range twice a day for two weeks, one in daytime and another in the early evening hours. Of course, the exercise was much more complex than flying over the range and shooting there. Besides the helicopter crews and the ground crews, an entire air operations, logistic, flight safety and armaments staff deployed to the airbase to create realistic circumstances during the exercise which resembled actual in-theatre situations. In the two weeks, in addition to the live fire exercises, they also flew special search and rescue missions, during which the airmen of HDF Pápa Air Base were acting as role-players.

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During the exercise, the American partners were supporting the Hungarian airmen’s trade training as well, as the Pápa airmen greatly profit from the lessons learned on joint operations. The Americans organized academic training for Pápa ground crewmembers on how to remove rounds stuck during live firing exercises and how to refuel helicopters while the rotors are rotating (“hot gun and hot gas”). Besides, the “cockpit training” provided air traffic controllers, firefighters and aircraft maintenance specialists with an insight into the aircrews’ work on a live combat operation, in the spirit of enhancing understanding and agreement among experts working in different fields. The American special missions aviators also shared their experiences of the newly established armaments loading/unloading area at Pápa AB, and the servicing conditions can be further improved by taking these experiences into consideration.

Finally, in answer to a question as to how much the American experts were satisfied with the practical support provided by the HDF Pápa Air Base, Captain Koch told us that based on what had been agreed, they would like to organize more editions of the exercise every three months in the future; moreover, the Heavy Airlift Wing, too, has already indicated its willingness to join the program.