With a changing global climate, winters in the Netherlands have become more moderate, with hardly any freezing days. Thus, for many years, Dutch Helicopter Command (DHC) has been scheduling its annual winter training in Norway, where Arctic conditions are guaranteed. These exercises are often combined with Special Operations Forces (SOF) in their training on survival, medical evacuation, in and exfiltration.
Due to Covid-19, the DHC had to cancel this year’s Arctic training edition. Surprisingly, however, February 2021 provided a small period in the Netherlands with plenty of snow and daily frost. With some flexibility in flight planning at DHC’s main operating and home base, Gilze-Rijen, the helicopter crews were given the opportunity to make use of the unexpected, but welcome, circumstances.
Crews of CH-47D Chinooks, AS-532-U2 Cougars and AH-46D Apaches repeatedly conducted ‘white-out’ landings. Similar to a brown-out, where dust and sand blows up during landing, a whiteout blocks a good view for the crew when the snow is thrown up by the down-wash of the helicopter. Frequent training for this scenario, involving the cockpit crew relying on instruments while working closely with the visual instructions of the cabin crew, helps to practise safe landings without disorientation.
Meanwhile, the first two of 14 new ordered CH-47Fs are about to be delivered to 298 squadron in the Netherlands. The new Foxtrots are the latest MYII CAAS Chinook version, and will replace the older Deltas, which have been in use since 1995. The six earlier Dutch Foxtrot types, acquired in 2013, are to receive an upgrade by Boeing US that will bring them up to the same standard as the new Chinooks. Furthermore, the first three AH-46D Apaches of 301 squadron have entered a complex revision and re-building program at Boeing Mesa, Arizona. All 28 DHC Apaches will be part of this intensive program, which will give the attack helicopters an extended operational life until 2050.
Text and photos © Peter ten Berg