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Exercise Maple Leaf: Largest and Most Complex International Training Event Hones Military Skills

More than 1300 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members are currently participating in the annual Exercise MAPLE FLAG 49 at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta. Running from May 30 to June 24, the exercise is the Royal Canadian Air Force’s largest and most complex international training event of the year.

Running annually since 1978, Exercise MAPLE FLAG 49 is aimed at allowing participants to hone their skills for rigorous operations in modern aerial battlespace.

Participants will practice various aerial warfare skills including: command and control, air-to-air and air-to-surface operations, air-to-air refuelling; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; tactical airlift; tactical aviation; and close air support.

The exercise also includes participation from 400 allied military personnel. International allies taking part include: the United States Air Force, the United States Air Force Reserve, the Kentucky Air National Guard, the United States Marine Corps, the Royal Air Force, the French Air Force, the German Army and the Belgian Army.

Exercise MAPLE FLAG 49 uses a fictitious scenario to prepare participating forces for likely wartime situations. The troops must fight their way into a conflict zone, eliminate enemy targets and then fight their way back. For this year’s Exercise MAPLE FLAG 49, the fictitious nations of Lemgo and Stromia are in conflict.

“The use of a scenario like this is quite common to the way modern Canadian Armed Forces and NATO training exercises take place. Rather than fly and fight for the sake of honing their skills, exercise participants are given a scenario and a set of objectives, this helps guide their decision making and provides context to the activities being performed,” wrote Captain Mathew Strong, 4 Wing Public Affairs Officer, in an RCAF news article.

The scenario is developed by the Air Force Tactical Training Centre and with the consultation of all participating nations.

“As part of the exercise, on April 1, 2016, Stromia began to build-up large numbers of troops and aircraft near Lemgoese territory, culminating in airstrikes on April 15. Now, troops from Stromia are inside Lemgo and engaging ground forces, inflicting heavy casualties, and taking large swaths of territory and infrastructure.

“In response, a coalition led by Canada has been formed to rapidly deploy forces to what is currently still Lemgoese territory. The goals of the coalition are to suppress Stromian aggression and stop the suffering of the Lemgoese people,” added Strong.

Since the exercise started on May 30, the participating troops have been working to meet their coalition goal and are given missions that could occur in the real world conflict.

The exercise also includes an International Observer Program to provide potential future participating countries a chance to experience the exercise. This year’s participants of the International Observer Program are Australia, Chile, Germany, India, Israel, Philippines, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of South Korea and Sweden.

Featured image: Gunner Anthony Faber from 4 Artillery Regiment Gagetown, New Brunswick fires the JMan Pad, a simulated ground to air weapon during Exercise MAPLE FLAG at Primrose Lake Evaluation Range, Alberta on June 7, 2016.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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