MILAVIA > Specials > APROC 2017 Rivolto Last updated: 18 July 2017
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Exercise Report : APROC 2017 Rivolto

Air-centric Personnel Recovery Operatives Course 2017

Last June, the APROC training exercise of the European Personnel Recovery Centre (EPRC) took place with Italian, French and Polish helicopters deploying to Rivolto, Italy. Report and photos by Renzo Del Bianco

The 2017 edition of the Air-centric Personnel Recovery Operatives Course (APROC) took place at Rivolto between June 14 and June 28. This is the main training event of its kind in Europe. It involves military personnel and aerial components belonging to the seven constituent nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Spain) of the European Personnel Recovery Centre (EPRC). This year some flight components from Poland, and observers from United States and other nations joined the event, as the training course, although it’s a specific activity of the EPRC with the aim of standardizing and improving procedures within the European defense collaboration, has been positively evaluated by the other nations and it could also be adopted as standard training in the future within NATO.

The goals of APROC are to educate and train personnel to acquire enough experience and knowledge about planning and conducting complex Personnel Recovery (PR) missions in scenarios involving assets of different Armed Forces, train the more experienced pilots for the Rescue Mission Commander (RMC) role so they’re able to lead, plan and execute the most complex of missions, as well carry out related briefing and de-briefing. Not least among the objectives of the Course is to train Extraction Force personnel to recover and provide medical first aid assistance to Isolated Personnel (ISOP). The Course is supported by Subject Matter Experts, coming from various nations and NATO Command Structure, specialized in Survive Evade Resist Escape (SERE), Mission Monitors (MIMO), and Opposing Forces (OPFOR). Ultimately, the APROC “certifies” personnel in providing extensive knowledge of the PR discipline, roles and Tactics Techniques and Procedures (TTPs), required to ensure the successful mission outcome in complex and multinational scenarios. This is the only such course in Europe, and the U.S. Air Force, which carries out a similar course (Angel Thunder) in United States, is currently considering the option to get involved.

The participating assets operated in gradually more complex scenarios, taking place in the north-east of Italy, up to involving fixed-wing aircraft with 51° Stormo AMXs from Istrana, sometimes operating from Rivolto too, 6° Stormo Tornados from Ghedi and 4° Stormo Typhoons from Grosseto. As flying activities and extraction actions had to be flown in territories outside military ranges or air bases, it was necessary to coordinate with territorial authorities to minimize impact on the local population. Consequently, all sorties were flown in the afternoon within a window of two hours, and the Pick-Up Zones (PUZ), areas from where the recovery action had to be executed by the Extraction Force, had been selected far from population centers. For a realistic setting in the PUZs, ground troops in hostile role were deployed in the surrounding areas. With support of the 3° Stormo personnel, several Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) had been set up at civil airfields and military areas, where the involved helicopters could divert to for fuel and everything else needed to execute the mission.

Some APROC 2017 numbers at Rivolto were; about 600 military personnel, more than 20 helicopters and aircraft, 168 sorties and 335 flying hours flown.

APROC 2017 participating helicopters
Country Number Type Unit
Italy 2HH-101A (EH101 CSAR)15° Stormo, Cervia, Aeronautica Militare
2HH-139A (AW139M SAR)
1HH-212A (AB212 SAR)9° Stormo, Grazzanise, Aeronautica Militare
1UH-101A (EH101 ASH)GRUPELICOT 1, Luni-Sarzana, COMFORAER Marina Militare
1SH-90A (NH90 NFH)GRUPELICOT 5, Luni-Sarzana, COMFORAER Marina Militare
Poland 2Mi-24W 'Hind'56.BLot, Inowroclaw/Latkovo, 1 Brygada Lotnictwa, Wojsk Lądowych
2W-3PL Gluszec66.DLot, Tomaszów Mazowiecki/Nowy Glinnik, 25 Brygady Kawalerii Powietrznej, Wojsk Lądowych
France 2AS555 AN Fennec 2EH03.067, Villacoublay, Armée de l’Air
2EC725 R2 Caracal EH01.067, Cazaux, Armée de l’Air

One of the Polish Army W-3 helicopters (reported 0606) crash-landed on June 22 at Massanzago, near Padova, Veneto Province. The pilot attempted an emergency landing in a field, due to the hard impact on landing the helicopter caught fire. Fortunately, all six military personnel on board did not suffer any injuries.

The European Personnel Recovery Centre (EPRC) was established in 2015 following a proposal of the European Air Group (EAG) at RAF High Wycombe, United Kingdom, to combine all knowledge in the Personnel Recovery activities, both doctrinal/conceptual and the training/teaching aspects, into a single entity, to capitalize on all lessons learned from recovery operations and exercises carried out up to that point. A Technical Arrangement was signed by Chief of Staff of seven nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Spain) joining the project. The command of the EPRC was positioned on the Italian Air Force’s base at Poggio Renatico, Italy. The base also hosts the Command of the Aerial Operations of the Aeronautica Militare Italiano and the NATO Deployable Air Command & Control Center (DACCC). The EPRC two most important activities are the Air Centric Personnel Recovery Operatives Course (APROC) and also the Personnel Recovery Controller and Planner Course (PRCPC). The PRCPC produces specialized planners and controllers for the Command and Control Center, to manage personnel recovery in hostile territories. The EPRC motto is: That Others May Live. The EPRC’s Commander and Director positions are rotated between the seven participating nations. Initially both position were fulfilled by Italy, last June the first change-over occurred, when French Air Force Brig. Gen. Laurent Marboeuf assumed the EPRC’s Director position, taking over from Italian Air Force Maj. Gen. Gianni Candotti.

Italian Air Force helicopters
HH-212A 9-55
HH-139A 15-52
HH-212A 9-55
EC725 R2 Caracal
EC725 R2 Caracal SH
EC725 R2 Caracal
SH-90A 3-07
Mi-24W 738
APROC 2017 flight-line
HH-101A 15-05
Mi-24W 728
EC725 R2 Caracal SK
Extraction Force
HH-101A 15-05
AS555 AN Fennec 2
W-3PL Gluszec
Mi-24W Hind-E
APROC 2017 helicopters
W-3PL Gluszec 0601
EC725 R2 Caracal
W-3PL Gluszec helicopters
W-3PL Gluszec helicopter 0601 and 0606
AS555 AN Fennec 2s
HH-101A 15-04

Thanks to Capt. Giovanni Lopresti, 2° Stormo PI, Aeronautica Militare

Sources : 2° Stormo - Rivolto; COM EPRC - Poggio Renatico

51° AMX 51-30
51° Stormo AMX 51-50
51° Stormo AMX 51-55
Extraction Force
Extraction Force
Personnel Recovery
HH-101A Pick-Up Zone
AMX air cover HH-101A CSAR
HH-101A extraction
HH-101A loadmaster
Personnel recovery and casevac

Report by Renzo Del Bianco. Photos by Renzo Del Bianco and Valter Marchetti

First Published: 17 July 2017
Last Modified: 18 July 2017

Update log
18 Jul 2017 Added SH-90 photos