Maple Flag aerial combat training at Cold Lake air weapons range to host 18 countries

About 40 senior officials from 18 countries will visit Cold Lake as the airbase’s Maple Flag aerial combat training exercise kicks off Monday.

“We will have 40 senior officials from 18 countries that are going to be in town to observe the program,” said this year’s Maple Flag director Capt. Sébastien Gorelov.

Last year, about 21 officials from 10 countries visited to observe the exercise that allows Canada and its allies to train together in the airspace.

Gorelov said air forces from around the world are interested in the renowned training event that is split into two periods of two weeks.

“For many members of the air forces around the world, Cold Lake is fighter town Canada … one of the unique attributes we have to offer that’s very rare in the world is the Cold Lake air weapons range because it’s a large airbase that you can train in over land,” he said.

The first two weeks of the exercise will have land forces as the main focus, with 300 soldiers on the range from Canada, the U.S. Marines as well as French and Belgian special forces.

The land forces component is new to Maple Flag this year as there will be an advanced tactical aviation (ATAC) course, the most advanced tactical course for the helicopter pilots to support the ground forces.

Other courses include the tactics electronic warfare instructor course (TEWIC) and the fire weapon instructor course (FWIC) which teaches tactical leaders to handle an entire “package.” 

“In a conflict, once it’s decided to orchestrate a package — which is to go into the bad guy land and accomplish the mission — every tactical aspect of the mission, all the decisions that are going to be taken on the spot is going to be given to the package commander,” Gorelov said.

The second half of the training event will involve eight F16s from the Royal Singaporean air force and four F16s from U.S. air force.

Although it is Maple Flag 50 this year, this is the 45th exercise, as the event has been cancelled on a few occasions, including in 2015 when many countries had their air assets committed to battling ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

As a thank you to the Cold Lake community, there will be an open house on the base June 17.