Stewart Penney/GILZE RIJEN AB


The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has begun a search for European training sites for its Boeing NAH-64D Apache attack helicopters as the first operational flight concludes training.

The RNLAF ordered 30 Apaches in 1995 and received the first example last year. Four senior staff from the first squadron, 302, have completed training in the USA, while the first flight is due to return from Fort Hood, Texas, to Gilze Rijen AB next month. It will continue training, including working with the army and gaining experience of the Dutch operating environment before being declared operational in January next year.

Lt Col Ron Hagemeijer, 302 Sqn commanding officer, says a benefit of the RNLAF's initial training at Fort Hood is the US base's large operational training area, which allows live firing of all the weapon systems, including the AGM-114 Hellfire missile. Other weapons employed on RNLAF Apaches are Hydra unguided rockets and the AH-64's nose-mounted 30mm gun.

Fort Hood's western training area, at around 45,000km² (17,400 miles²), is similar in size to the Netherlands, he says. It also has "a range" of targets that move around the training area requiring crews to acquire them with the helicopter's sensors and manoeuvre for the attack, rather than attacking fixed targets and launching weapons from a fixed firing point.

Hagemeijer says that once training in the USA is finished, the RNLAF's Apache squadrons will need to perform such "manoeuvre training" at night in Europe, which lacks a range large enough for the 24h a day manoeuvre training. Night training requires a large range to limit the disturbance to the civilian population.

The RNLAF has looked at ranges in Greece, Hungary, Norway, Poland and the UK, says Hagemeijer.

Source: Flight International