Multinational Special Operations Aviation Training Centre Opens in Croatia
(Source: NATO; issued Dec. 11, 2019)
The official inauguration of the Multinational Special Aviation Program Training Center in Zadar, Croatia, on Dec. 11 ended with a demonstration by Croatian special forces using two Mi-171Sh helicopters escorted by two OH-58Ds. (Croatia MoD photo)
Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia jointly opened the Multinational Special Aviation Programme at a ceremony in Zadar, Croatia on December 11, 2019. The centre is dedicated to training air crews responsible for transporting Special Operations Forces.

The opening was hosted by Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Damir Krstičević, and was attended by Defence Ministers and representatives of the four participating Allies, as well as Chief of General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces General Mirko Šundov, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment Camille Grand, and the Commander of the NATO Special Operations Headquarters, Lieutenant General Eric P. Wendt.

“The Multinational Special Aviation Programme epitomizes what NATO stands for – Allies achieving more together than they ever could individually,” said Assistant Secretary General Grand. He added: “by committing to training the next generation of Special Operations Forces aviation crews in one place, you – the participants – are laying the foundations for ever more seamless joint operations.”

The training centre will start work in 2020 with academic training, before flight training begins in 2021. The location in Zadar offers training opportunities for helicopter crews in various geographic settings – including in the mountains, at sea and on islands.

The Multinational Special Aviation Programme is supported by the NATO Special Operations Headquarters, and benefits from informal ties with the Special Operations aviation communities of selected Allies. This cooperation of Special Operations Forces is unique in NATO.

By applying NATO standards, it will increase interoperability amongst the participants, throughout the Alliance and with NATO partners. As such, additional Allies and partner nations may decide to join MSAP in the future, which could lead to a further expansion of the centre’s scope.

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International Special Forces Training Center opened in Zemunik
(Source: Croatian Ministry of Defence; issued Dec. 11, 2019)
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
The Multinational Special Aviation Training Center (MSAP TC) was inaugurated on Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at Colonel Mirko Vukusic Barracks in Zemunik.

The ceremony was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Republic of Croatia Damir Krsticevic, Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces, General Mirko Sundov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Republic of Bulgaria Krasimir Karakachanov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Republic of Slovenia Karl Erjavec, Hungary's Minister of Defense Tibor Benko, NATO Assistant Secretary General Camille Grand, the commander of NATO’s Special Operations Command, General Eric P. Wendt, and many other senior officials.

Also, the ceremony was attended by the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Republic of Slovenia and Hungary.

MSAP aims to train multi-purpose helicopter crews designated for special air operations, through both theoretical and flight training, to perform unconventional Special Air Force tasks in accordance with the capability objectives of each MSAP Member State.

The training will be conducted to the highest standards and in the most economically efficient manner, and will ultimately result in increased interoperability while respecting all NATO standards set.

Krsticevic: MSAP can be a new NATO Center of Excellence

On that occasion, Minister Krsticevic said that the opening of the MSAP Training Centerwas a very significant day for the Croatian Army.

“MSAP is the first international NATO body to have the potential to become the new NATO Center of Excellence. This is a confirmation of Croatia as a credible NATO member," he said.

"What is crucial, today, is that Croatia is no longer alone, that we are building new capabilities that are significant for our country, for the Croatian Army, for NATO, and more importantly, we are building the future together with our partners and allies. I am proud that in Croatia, the best pilots will be trained in Zemunik in the implementation of special air force operations," Krsticevic said, adding that today's exercise of the Croatian Air Force and Special Forces Command showed all the power and strength of the Croatian Army.

"Our Croatian Army has once again shown its superior readiness, its training and showed how respectable it is," Krsticevic concludes.

Shundov: MSAP creates a variety of complex training conditions

General Shundov emphasized that the establishment of the MSAP creates the conditions for training in a very complex variety of conditions, which will enable the achievement of the stated Capability Goals of each of the MSAP contributing countries. The added benefit is, of course, the strengthening of interoperability between the armed forces.

"By taking on the Special Operations Air Task Unit and Personnel Recovery Capability objective, Croatia was aware of the implicit obligations, but also of the value that these capabilities bring to the Croatian Army, and of additional capabilities such as Combat Search And Rescue. Since the Republic of Bulgaria, Hungary and the Republic of Slovenia have the same capability goals, an initiative was launched to open a joint training center for special air forces,” explained Shundov.

NATO Assistant Secretary General Camille Grand stressed that it is very important to understand the changes that have taken place in the security environment in recent years, which in require investment in knowledge, skills and abilities. He stressed that this is why the importance of developing the capabilities of the Special Forces was recognized. It is a testament to NATO's ability to develop new knowledge and skills.

On this occasion, the head of NATO Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Eric P. Wendt, thanked the Croatian Army for the knowledge and skills it brings to the missions and operations in which it participates. He emphasized that the Republic of Croatia is a great host for such a center and that it is an excellent prerequisite for the further development of NATO capabilities and capacities.

The defense ministers of Bulgaria, Slovenia and Hungary thanked their counterpart, Defense Minister Damir Krsticic, and said they were convinced of the bright future of the new International Center, which is based in Croatia.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Republic of Bulgaria, Krasimir Karakachanov, said that this was a capability that needed to be developed, and that the International Center would greatly help in the development and strengthening of the national and, eventually, NATO capabilities and capabilities.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Republic of Slovenia Karl Erjavec agreed that working together and exchanging experiences is crucial for the development of the NATO Alliance, and said he is pleased with the realization of this idea and believes in future successful cooperation.

Hungarian Minister of Defense Tibor Benko said that in order to understand the need for the establishment of MSAP, one must also look into the past, because it was based on lessons learned from the past, and given the security environment in which we live today and the new challenges it entails, decided to establish one such Center.

As part of the inauguration of the International Special Forces Training Center, members of the Croatian Air Force and the Special Forces Command conducted an exercise depicting infiltration into a terrorist cell. The exercise ended with a demonstration of the vehicle interdiction capability of two Mi-171Sh helicopters with the overwatch of two OH-58D helicopters.

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