ETAP-T, European Tactical Airlift Programme (ETAP) most ambitious project of the year is back in 2022, after a three (3) year’s break imposed by COVID 19 restrictions.

From 05 to 17 June, Beja Air Force Base was once again the scenario of a European Air Transport “Block Training”.
Last time Portugal hosted a similar multinational project was in 2017, when this type of combined collective training was organized under the umbrella of European Defence Agency, with the support of European Air Transport Command (EATC). Once ETAP Technical Arrangement was signed and the European Tactical Airlift Centre (ETAC) was created, the Centre used the experience accumulated by the airlift community in previous “trainings”, in order to prepare 2018 and 2019 ETAP-T editions, hosted by Hungary and Spain respectively. For ETAP-T 22, all that knowledge and the hard work of all Portuguese Air Force, ETAC and EATC planning team members, were instrumental to overcome the challenge of several years without “T” in ETAP calendar.

After a long preparation phase, the execution of the project under Portuguese leadership, was finally possible by the strong involvement of all personnel integrating in the ETAC directed multinational team. Apart from the participation of expert planners from the Portuguese Air Command, AB 11 at Beja and many other Portuguese Air Force and Army units, the team counted with the essential support of EATC, whose members also organized additional air transport training activities different than aircrew flight training, like cross maintenance, Combined Air Terminal, or parachuting exchanges.

The ETAP-T projects, which offers participating units the opportunity to practice multiple type of airlift operations in a realistic environment, are described as ‘training á la carte’, because the training objectives of the Project Participants (PP) are requested by the nations themselves.

ETAP-T 22 edition was highlighted for the enthusiastic support of PP´s, eager to fly and train at Beja again. The big scenario that Portugal offers for the Training, covering so many airlift domains and possibilities, the luxury of sharing such a realistic planning with fighter crews, and the unique facilities, make of Beja the perfect location for this type of ETAP project. The extraordinary response of the nations, attending this edition in record numbers, was the best proof of the excellence and quality of this training.

With a total of 11 tactical air transport assets this one has been the project with the biggest number of participating aircrafts. One Czech Republic CASA 295, one Spanish A400 M, one A400M from France, two A400M from Germany, one Italian C130J, one C130H and one CASA295 from Portugal, one C27J from Rumania, one C130J from the United Kingdom, and one C130J from the recently created BATS combined French-German squadron, have enjoyed the experience. Additional assets deployed to the base, like F-16 fighters were supporting the missions as “blue” and “red” air assets providing unique and realistic scenarios.

The participating crews, 18 in total, have been able to plan and practice all types of airlift operations in a challenging environment, simulating the dynamic conditions that will encounter when they deploy in a real Theatre of Operation. The focus was set on the practice of standardized procedures, and the planning of complex missions in order to improve “Joint Interoperability Training” and advanced Composite Air Operations (COMAO).

During the more that 142 sorties planned, crews have performed low level flights, tactical formation missions, multiple actual personnel and cargo airdrops and assault landings in different locations, day and night, continuously interpreting with ground forces specialists and tactical controllers. ETAP-T 22, with 19 night sorties flown with NVG´s, and a total of 7 COMAO missions executed, enjoyed one of the most ambitious and diverse scenario planned for these type of trainings.

The participation and integration of all the units under the same unified effort, highlights the firm commitment of our nations and European institutions to achieve one of ETAP most significant objectives: enhancing airlift capability, through the pooling and sharing of resources, training opportunities, knowledge and experience, in a constant look for improved tactics, techniques and procedures.