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Aviation Légère de l'Armée de Terre (ALAT)
Exercise - 'Marne 2013'

Chaumont, France
May 27-31, 2013
5th RHC Tigre helicopters Pau-Uzein were used for force protection duties escorting the 3rd RHC Puma across the battlefield.
GAMEX - Aeromobile Group Exercise
A large scale tactical regimental aeromobile group exercise (GAMEX) was conducted over five days in May by the 3rd armed helicopters regiment (3rd RHC) of the Aviation Légère de l'Armée de Terre (ALAT or French Army Light Aviation) based at Etain in north eastern France. The GAMEX involved around 800 troops and 150 vehicles, 30 helicopters and two Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

61st RA personnel prepare a SAGEM Sperwer (Sparrowhawk) UAV for launch from its mobile catapult it generally takes 45 minutes to ready it for flight and each one can fly two missions a day. It is flown remotely at a speed of 112 mph (180km/h) and has an endurance of five hours. It is recovered by deploying a parachute and airbags.The thermal imaging camera can detect at a range of 28,871 feet (8,800m) and identify at 5,905 feet (1,800m). During the exercise due its loud engine powered propeller they were easy to seen from the ground circling at around 5,000 feet (1,524m) about the battlefield.
The objective of the exercise was to firstly prepare and validate the troops prior to their deployment to Mali in July and secondly to provide experience working as an aeromobile group (GAM) with UAVs and helicopters which were integrated into the force.
As with all large scale exercises a fictitious scenario is prepared for opposing forces to operate under. It was explained by exercise planners; "Barrois with Chaumont its capital is a new and potentially wealthy country following a recent discovery of oil and rare earth metals. Yonnie to the west has claims on Barrois and is developing a civilian nuclear program which it is suspected has military aims. Due to its extremist ideology government many of its citizens have moved across the border to Barrois. Elsass is a supporting partner to Barrois providing some military support including UAVs but is no match against the much larger Yonnie military. As cross-border incidents have increased between Barrois and Yonnie based insurgents, France has sent the 3rd RHC to Barrois and confrontation is likely".

The Marne 2013 exercise area covers a large area 62 miles (100km) long by 50 miles (80km) wide spread over three departments (counties) of Marne, Haute-Marne and Aube between Saint-Dizier, Chaumont, Bar-sur-Seine and Marigny. Each day of the exercise involves a different phase; day 1 was for tactical deployment, day 2 consisted of a day light raid to Bar-sur-Seine and a night raid to Brienne-le-Chateau, day 3 involved reconnaissance missions followed by destruction of enemy forces. Day 4 was ear marked for specific missions to free nationals held in Vitry. Day 5 was for strength disengagement.

The command and control centre at Chaumont where staff monitor operations across the battlefield.
The aerocombat missions were flown by a force consisting; 18 Aerospatiale SA.342M1/2/l1 Gazelle, ten Aerospatiale SA.330B Puma from 3rd RHC and two Eurocopter EC665 Tigre with 5th RHC which are based at Pau-Uzein in south western France. The all encompassing objectives of their missions were to; recognise, observe, attack, mark out, escort, infiltrate, support and destroy.

The aerocombat force were based at Chaumont-Semoutiers a former USAFE cold war air base but now the home of the 61e Régiment d'Artillerie (61st artillery regiment 61st RA). The deployed helicopters operated from the old concrete dispersals where Republic F-84s operated in the 1950s which are now cracked and strew with weeds. Portable buildings were erected to support deployed personnel and equipment including an enormous tent used to house a helicopter requiring maintenance.
At least two SAGEM Sperwer (Sparrowhawk) UAVs were operated by the 61st artillery regiment. The Sparrowhawks were launched from a mobile catapult positioned on one of the old taxiways. Surrounded by a small number of tents and supporting vehicles they flew day and night providing permanent battlefield surveillance with real time video imagery.

23 miles (36km) to the north of Chaumont, the small grass landing strip at Joinville was used as a forward operating base by Gazelle and Puma supporting ground forces with mortars. Although the activity did not appear intense these exercises are a necessary in preparation for deployments to hostile regions abroad.
61e Régiment d'Artillerie ground forces liasing with 3 RHC Gazelle commanders at the forward operating base.

Early morning mass launch from Chaumont where all the ALAT helicopters were operating.
The HOT (Haut subsonique Optiquement Téléguidé Tiré d'un Tube) or High Subsonic Optical Remote-Guided, Tube-Launched is a second-generation long-range anti-tank missile system developed in the 1970s and is used inconjunction with the Viviane infrared day/night sight developed in the early 1980s.
Left to right: SA.342M1 Gazelles (4018 'GAX', 4039 'GBC', 4151 'GBZ' and 3548 'GAE') of 3 RHC based at Etain. The 3rd RHC comprises 30 Gazelle for reconnaissance and attack and 20 Puma utility and assault helicopters and is based at Etain.
5 RHC Aerospatiale SA.342M1 Gazelle (4039 'GBC') equipped with a HOT anti-tank missile system and Viviane day/night sight and Gazelle SA.342L1 (4207 'GEC)
Left to right: SA.342M1 Gazelles (4018 'GAX' and 4039 'GBC') and SA.342L1 Gazelles (4207 'GEC' and 4216 'GEK') all of 3 RHC based at Etain.
Left to right: SA.342M1 Gazelles (3853 'GNF', 3863 'GAM' and 3853 'GNF') of 3 RHC.
Left to right: Aerospatiale SA.330B Pumas (1214 'DAX' with machine gun mounted and 1206 'DDE') of 3 RHC.
Left to right: SA.330B Pumas (1093 'DCG' and 1142 'DCN') of 3 RHC.
3rd RHC Pumas from Etain army camp were escorted to the forward operating bases and to the battlefield by 5th RHC Tigre helicopters Pau-Uzein in south western France.
Left to right: Eurocopter EC665 Tigre (2031 'BHX' and 2040 'BIH') of 5 RHC.

UAV surveillance 24 hours a day
SAGEM Sperwer (Sparrowhawk) UAV on its catapult shortly before launching, the UAV's control vehicle is in the background.
61st RA personnel prepare a SAGEM Sperwer (Sparrowhawk) UAV serial F-302 which is to be launched from its mobile catapult and generally takes 45 minutes to ready it for flight and each one can fly two missions a day. It is flown remotely at a speed of 112 mph (180km/h) and has an endurance of five hours. It is recovered by deploying a parachute and airbags.The thermal imaging camera can detect at a range of 28,871 feet (8,800m) and identify at 5,905 feet (1,800m). During the exercise due its loud engine powered propeller they were easy to seen from the ground circling at around 5,000 feet (1,524m) about the battlefield.
Left to right: The Sparrowhawks are pushed to the winching lorry lifts and places it on the catapult.
Left to right: Preparation of the Sparrowhawk continues. 
Left to right: With seconds to go the engine is started manually and 61st RA personnel are ready to press the button to launch.
Left to right: Engine running its about to launch and in an instant its away climbing to its operating height of around 5,000 feet. Sparrowhawk (F-323) in five hours time will be ready to be launched laucnhed to replace F-302 near to the end of its mission to ensure 24 hour coverage of the battlefield.

Deployed to the forward operation base
Ground forces planning the next move with 3 RHC Gazelle commanders
Left to right: SA.342M1 Gazelles (4053 'GBE' and 4019 'GAY').
Left to right: SA.342M1 Gazelles (3664 'GAF', 4151 'GBZ', 4053 'GBE' and 4018 'GAX').

61e Régiment d'Artillerie troops
3rd RHC Pumas from Etain army camp were escorted 61e Régiment d'Artillerie troops and equipment to the battlefield by 5th RHC Tigre helicopters
Left to right: 61e Régiment d'Artillerie troops and 3 RHC SA.330B Puma (1632 'DBN').
Left to right: 61e Régiment d'Artillerie troops and 3 RHC SA.330B Puma (1632 'DBN').
61e Régiment d'Artillerie troops man-handling equipment on to a 3 RHC SA.330B Puma (1632 'DBN').
Left to right: EC665 Tigre (2031 'BHX') of 5 RHC.
SA.342M1 Gazelles (4019 'GAY' and 4053 'GBE').
Left to right: SA.342M1 Gazelles (4018 'GAX', 3664 'GAF' and 4151 'GBZ').
Left to right: SA.342M1 Gazelle (4151 'GBZ' ) and SA.342L1 Gazelle (4210 'GEF').
Left to right: SA.342M1 Gazelle (3853 'GNF').
Troop and equipment exfiltration from the battlefield.
Left to right: SA.330B Puma (1182 'DCY').
Left to right: SA.330B Puma (1182 'DCY') to collect me at the end of the day.