On the 24th of May 2018 the EAG reached two logistical milestones, when for the first time they used new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and successfully completed the second Force Integration Training (FIT) course for Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) personnel. These achievements build on the experience gained during the past year, during which the new SOPs and the training syllabus for FARP procedures were developed in conjunction with all of the EAG Nations. From 22nd to 24th May 2018, the SOPs and the FARP FIT syllabus were put into action during the latest Air-Centric Personnel Recovery Operatives’ Course (APROC) hosted by the Royal Netherlands Air Force at Gilze Rijen Air Base. A total of twenty-four personnel from France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK benefited from the training.
Although all EAG Nations operate military helicopters, not all of them possess Forward Arming & Refueling Point capabilities. There is also a wide variety of helicopter types, refueling equipment and procedures used amongst the EAG nations, in addition to which some helicopter missions of extended duration require multiple additional fuel stops as part of the operation. Standardization and familiarization training in FARP procedures for both aircrew and ground personnel is therefore essential for ensuring that refueling can be carried out safely and speedily.
The SOPs provide a baseline structure for operations, while the FIT is intended to provide aircrew and ground support personnel with practical, multinational knowledge and a forum for sharing experiences. The knowledge gained can then be applied by personnel during multinational exercises or operations, in order to ensure that refuelling can take place in the most expeditious manner and under ‘Hot’ refuel conditions, with helicopter engines running and rotors turning.
Although the EAG Permanent Staff developed the FARP SOPs / FIT in conjunction with the EAG Nations and remains the custodian, the recent FIT was organised and delivered by the Netherlands, as the host Nation. Due to the variety of assets involved, the APROC was deliberately chosen as the initial test bed for the new EAG SOPs, which are based on NATO STANAGs and ATP-49, and the EAG FIT also proved to be an outstanding success. Safety is one of the key elements therefore all refuelling personnel took part in the training, in order to become familiar with the characteristics and requirements of the equipment and helicopter assets involved.
The SOPs and FIT will help to harmonise re-fuelling standards and C2 structures, develop new methods of teaching and bring into line training for the aircrew and FARP personnel involved. The next milestone will be to organize the EAG Fuel FARP Meeting, which is scheduled to take place in October 2018 at RAF High Wycombe in the UK. This forum aims to share information among FARP specialists and national subject matter experts throughout the EAG’s network, in order to identify and address the lessons identified and to consider opportunities for updating the EAG SOPs and FIT, so that these can be successfully used during future exercises and operations.