Exercises are structured scenarios that give the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) personnel and leaders the opportunity to sharpen their skills and test new tactics.
Students and leaders taking training courses may have an exercise as one component of the course or as a final component or test. Exercises can also provide a tool for the RCAF to update and reinforce procedures and tactics for members who are working demanding environments, such as, combat or search and rescue.
In a larger scenario exercises give the RCAF an opportunity to collaborate with the Canadian Army and Navy, as well as, the militaries of other nations. International participation helps build cooperation, sharpen skills beyond our boundaries, and develop new tactical procedures. All of which increases the professional capability of our air force.
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Exercise Winged Warrior is the culmination and highlight of 1 Wing's Advanced Tactical Aviation Course (ATAC). ATAC is a 8-week long course, offered once a year to 12 senior Griffon Aircraft Commanders. The course and exercise take place at 403 Helicopter Operational Training Squadron (Hel OTS), Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown.
Exercise Winged Warrior, about two weeks in length, provides an opportunity to assess ATAC students on their ability to plan and execute combined arms aviation missions across the full spectrum of conflict. It is focused on mobility, reconnaissance, direction and control of fire.
To properly challenge the students, 1 Wing assembles a squadron's worth of aircraft and personnel to conduct Exercise Winged Warrior in conjunction with ground forces. The exercise provides an opportunity for joint and collective training for all participants.
The Aviation Tactics Flight (ATF) of 403 (Hel) OTS directs the exercise, with augmentation from all other 1 Wing units. Up to 16 CH-146 Griffon helicopters and about 200 personnel are involved in the exercise. The exercise also provides 1 Wing with an opportunity to validate their tactics, techniques and procedures.
Each year NATO nations gather to train their air forces. Normally held through the summer months exercises such as "Clean Hunter" and "Bold Avenger" coordinate live air operations within an intense air war environment.
Each year Canada contributes various air units to participate. The mix of training, units involved and participating countries varies, but the aim remains the same. The exercises are conducted to promote training opportunities for the participating units and to maximise interactions between forces. No matter what the tasks are, our air elements always return with lessons learned, cooperation strengthened and expertise honed.
Integration of the participating countries is the key element. Some of the participating countries are Belgium, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Poland, United Kingdom, United States, Italy, and a variety of others. Canadian Air Force units work with the other nations to define and run a combat scenario. When the exercise is complete an analysis is conducted and the results are shared with the coalition.
Valuable exercise training and practice is generated for units from headquarters staff, to air weapons controllers, to the pilots who fly aircraft, ranging from CF-18 Hornets to CC-130 Hercules. The aim is to ensure that Canadian Forces training objectives are addressed at all levels during the planning and accomplished during the execution of the exercise. It is also a tool that helps increase pilot and crew situational awareness and leadership skills and uses a "train as you fly" philosophy, much the same as what members would experience in a real situation.
Each year the training scenarios change but the result always benefits the RCAF and the Canadian Forces, through gained expertise, sharpened skills and better working relations with our NATO coalition members.