2014 Event Review

AMPLE STRIKE 2014, September 3-15, 2014
Location: No. 22 Helicopter Base at Náměšť nad Oslavou, Czech Republic
Admission: Accredited media only
Parking: Free onsite with shuttle, paid reserved parking available
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: None, not an air show
AAJTS logo
AAJTS emblem

The Czech Republic hosted the AMPLE STRIKE 2014 tactical exercise between September 3-15, 2014  The main base used for this exercise was the No. 22 Helicopter Base at Náměšť nad Oslavou. The participants came from 12 different NATO members supported by the NATO HQ AIRCOM at Ramstein AFB, Germany. In total there were some 1400 troops employed together with approximately 30 aircraft and helicopters. Additionally the Czech Army supported the AMPLE STRIKE exercise with ground troops and artillery.

The main goal of the exercise was to train pilots and Forward Air Controller (FAC) for preparing and  coordinating tactical air operations to support ground operations. The host country offers a perfect environment in case of its military training grounds like Boletice, Libava and Bechyne for an ambitious training for future Forward Air Controller. The whole exercise was based on the actual experience gained by several member countries in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Participating in the exercises included from the Slovak Air Force two Mil Mi – 17 NATO codename “Hip”, two Aero L-39 CM and additionally two Aero L-39 ZAM to Náměšť. Of great interest (at least for the press and the aviation enthusiast) was a Lithuanian L-39ZA, which is rarely seen outside Lithunania. Especially as the Lithuanian air surveillance is, due to a lack of a potent local air force, mainly covered by other NATO members. Due to bad weather conditions in Germany six US Army Boeing AH-64D APACHE LONGBOW attack helicopter arrived a day later from their base at Illesheim (12th Combat Aviation Brigade). Together with Czech AF Mil Mi-24/35 as well as Mil Mi-17 / 171Sh the AH-64D formed a powerful air to ground force. On the first day the operational head of the exercise, Colonel Miroslav Svoboda, received every foreign crew personally.

For air surveillance as well as for the ground attack role in the training area the Czech Air Force employed SAAB JAS 39 GRIPEN, Aero L-159 ALCA and the older L-39 all coming from the Tactical Air Force Base Caslav. They were supported by USAF in form of six Lockheed Martin F-16 C/D from the Aviano based 510th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Wing. The F-16s were sent to the Polish Air Force base at Lask, where they operated together with Polish Fighting Falcons. The logistic support was provided by Czech AF CASA C-295M from Caslav AB.

The Náměšť nad Oslavou Air Base was very busy during the whole exercise. The US Army built up a huge container and tent camp at the western side of the base close to where the Apache Helicopter where parked. Inside this containers where the Ops and briefing rooms. Additionally there was a provisional Ops room for the air surveillance installed by the Czech Air Force. In case of the training for the Forward Air Controller there was a AAJTS-simulator (Air National Guard Advanced Joint Terminal Attack Controller Training System) installed.  The very first prototype  of this sophisticated simulator was initially simulator was used during the Ramstein Rover 2013 exercise, which also took place at Náměšť. This particular simulator with it’s 5 m wide cupola looks very much like a mini IMAX cinema. In it the trainees are completely integrated in a virtual battlefield scenario.  The weather conditions during the exercise were far from being perfect, still most of the planned operations could be executed. According to Colonel Svoboda the amount of night missions where reduced to a minimum. Still the number of missions showed the huge intensity of the excercise. On some days more than 30 mission scenarios  were organized and conducted, the Forward Air Controller had to deal with some 140 real and up to 40 simulated targets. this means a daily rate of up to 50 missions for the pilots and their aircraft where they accumulated some 60 flying hours per day! It was not only the air component who were quite busy but also the ground forces, for instance on September 11th a military convoy came under (simulated) attack. The FAC in charge requested artillery support, which was done by the magnificent Czech 152mm DANA self-propelled howitzer, which was located only 7 kms away from the battlefield. Just a few minutes after the artillery fire support the Aero L-159s dropped their ordnance and what was left of the “enemy” was later on finished by Boeing AH-64 APACHE – well done!

There is no operation without proper maintenance and ground support. As in the real world there were  plenty of things to do for everybody involved, like the airport fire fighters, who, beside their regular job, had their own part in the exercises.

On September 10th, the Force commander of AIRCOM at Ramsteim AFB, General Frank Gorenc, took part in the exercise together with the Chief of Staff of the Czech Army, General Petr Pavel and the Czech Air Force Commander Brigadier General Libor Stefanek. Together with Colonel Svoboda they held a press conference in the afternoon, where Brig. Gen. Stefanek praised the capabilities of the FAC´s and especially the good teamwork of all participants. According to  Brig. Gen. Stefanek. “The main goal must always be the perfect team coordination between the air and the ground components, this is why the exercise attaches so much importance in the training” When Gen. Gorenc was asked if it will be difficult for the USAF in the near future after the retirement of the Fairchild A-10 THUNDERBOLT II he said: “We Americans love our A-10, yes, the A-10 provided us as well as our allies over the years with a remarkable performance, still also this system has it’s date of expiry. Meanwhile we have developed and tested more modern weapon systems which are able to replace the A-10 completely!” At the end of his speech Gen. Gorenc thanked his Czech colleagues for their support which made this exercise highly successful.

General Petr Pavel and General Libor Stefanik mentioned the advantages of this exercise for the Czech Armed Forces. The huge complexity of this manoever required a high degree of effectiveness, which can not only be used within military operations but also for future humanitarian missions.

Unfortunately the final ceremony had do be cancelled due to the bad weather conditions. Instead a small festivity was organised in Náměšť nad Oslavou which officially ended the AMPLE STRIKE 2014 exercise on September 15, 2014

We would like to thank all the liaison officers of the HQ AIRCOM at Ramstein AFB as well as Major Magdalena Dvorakova  from the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces for their great hospitality and their support during the exercise.

Report and photography by Wolfgang Jarisch for

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