Pictured a Royal Netherlands Air Force apache takes part in Exercise Tac Blaze on the RAF Spadeadam Range.
Photo credit: Kurt Fairhurst

February 2019 saw the return of the Royal Netherlands Air Force to Carlisle airport after a three year absence transforming the airport into a forward operating base the Royal Netherlands Air Force deployed 250 troops, 80 vehicles and 8 rotary aircraft including 3 Chinooks, 3 Apaches and 2 Cougar helicopters, the personal are here to take part in Exercise Tac UK on the RAF Spadeadam Range.

Held for the first time in the United Kingdom since 2016 Exercise Tac UK is a electronic warfare training exercise which is held at RAF Spadeadam with the aircraft deployed at Carlisle airport.  Two cranes have installed 56 containers that will form a self-contained compound for the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Fuel tanks capable of holding 75,000 liters have also been put in place. The airport will provide more than 6,900 meals over the three-and-a-half-week exercise in a purpose-built marquee that can seat 130 troops at a time. One week before the exercise began vehicles where already on the move transporting all the necessary infrastructure to Carlisle airport via boat the camp took approximately one week to build in preparation for the aircraft arrivals and the start of the exercise once the exercise is over the same process will be taken to dismantle the camp and return back to the Netherlands 

Lieutenant Colonel Niels van den Berg said: We are happy to be back at Carlisle Lake District Airport and at RAF Spadeadam. Carlisle Lake District Airport is five minutes flying from the Spadeadam Range and that means that we can train very efficiently. The Main aim of the exercise is to train on the Spadeadam range using live radar threats simulating high threat environments with the ability to deploy live chaff it makes the range a unique location for training. Holding the exercise in the United Kingdom and more specifically Cumbria brings the added advantage of being able to distribute noise over a wide area of land away from the built up urban areas of the Netherlands allowing extra training from the crews including night flying and allowing the crews to become combat ready. 

At the start of the exercise all training is simplified to allow crews to become familiar with the range before becoming more complex as the exercise goes on. The three aircraft type will train individually in evasive maneuvers at the beginning before joining forces as the weeks progress into a combined force as they would on the real battle ground with the Apache providing cover for the Chinooks and Cougars as they proceed into landing zones around the Spadeadam range.  

See our interview below with Lieutenant colonel Niels van den Berg commander of exercise Tac Blaze at Carlise Airport.

Boeing CH-47D Chinook D-101
Boeing CH-47D Chinook D-664
Boeing CH-47F Chinook D-667

Boeing AH-64D Apache Q-05
Boeing AH-64D Apache Q-09
Boeing AH-64D Apache Q-14

Eurocopter AS532 Cougar S-444
Eurocopter AS532 Cougar S-456

Article by Kurt Fairhurst and assisted by Paul Atkin with special thanks to the Royal Netherlands Air Force, Royal Air Force Spadeadam and Carlisle airport