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The initial planning conference for the 50th Maple Flag exercise was held at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta., during the first week of December.
“The stage is set for the spring 2017 exercise,” said Maj Chris Horch, who commands the Air Force Tactical Training Centre at 4 Wing. “At our initial brief, we gave [the international participants] an idea of the different [flying] rules we have in Canada compared to other countries. We gave them a general overview brief of what the base offers.
“After the initial briefs,” he continued, “we had what we call the booth bay, with businesses from town that are involved in supporting Maple Flag. Rental car companies, hotels, other leisure companies as well.”
The exercise will run in two periods of two weeks each, beginning May 29 and ending June 23.
The first period will involve primarily Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft, including CF-188 Hornet fighters from 4 Wing and from 3 Wing Bagotville, Que. As well, four CH-146 Griffon and two CH-147F Chinook helicopters, and a CC-130J Hercules transport aircraft, will take part.
France and the United States are each scheduled to fly an E3 Sentry AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft in period 1, and France plans to fly its Airbus A400M tactical airlift aircraft.
Belgian, Canadian, French and German ground troops will participate in the exercise, while the United States Marine Corps will provide logistical support.
Period 2 will involve a greater emphasis on international fighter forces. The RCAF will fly CF-188s from 4 Wing squadrons. The Republic of Singapore Air Force is slated to bring 10 F-16 Fighting Falcon jets, and the United States Air Force 93rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, from Homestead, Florida, plans to contribute 12 F-16s. AWACS are scheduled to be provided by Royal Air Force and USAF E3 Sentry aircraft.
“Red Air,” flying as enemy forces, will be provided by Top Aces Alpha Jets and RCAF CF-188 Hornets.
The International Observer Program, under which potential participants get a sense of the exercise, is another important facet of Maple Flag. So far this year, 12 countries are confirmed as observers, and more may sign on.
Jeff Gaye is an editor/reporter with 4 Wing Cold Lake base newspaper The Courier.