American unit with 80 helicopters to return home via Rotterdam

03 July 2020
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Until early August, the Dutch Ministry of Defence will be helping an American helicopter brigade to return to the US via the port of Rotterdam. Around 100 members of the Dutch military will be deployed in support of this operation, at locations in the port of Rotterdam and the area around Eindhoven Airport. The US has asked the Netherlands to provide what is known as ‘Host Nation Support’ during the relocation of materiel from Eastern Europe to the port of Rotterdam, from where it will be loaded onto a ship for transport home. Most of this equipment will be moved to Rotterdam by road, while the unit’s 80 helicopters will be flying to Rotterdam via Eindhoven Airport.

USA Blackhawks

Helicopter brigade

For over nine months, the American helicopter brigade was posted in Europe as part of a stronger US presence on the continent. The Americans stepped up their presence in response to the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The helicopter brigade has spent the past six months training with NATO partners in Eastern Europe. It will now be relieved by a new unit, meaning its personnel can return to their home base in the American state of Georgia. The brigade consists of almost 80 helicopters, of the types UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache. In addition, the unit will be moving some 1,800 vehicles and containers stateside. The helicopters will fly in small groups to Rotterdam via Eindhoven, on week days between 1 July and 24 July at the latest. Upon arriving in Rotterdam, the aircraft will be prepared for sealift.

Port of Rotterdam

Over the next few weeks, the Dutch armed forces will be deploying a variety of units in support of the American troop transport. The transshipment site in the port of Rotterdam will be designated a ‘temporary military object’ and guarded 24/7 by armed personnel. Units of the Royal Netherlands Navy will ensure that the vessel can safely enter the port, while divers will check the quays beforehand for explosives. The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) will be manning the helicopters’ landing site and providing an airport crash tender for firefighting. In addition, RNLAF will deploy a unit of detection dogs for sniffing out possible explosives.

Eindhoven Airport

The Dutch military will also support the operation from Eindhoven Airport. The 80 helicopters will be making a stopover at the airbase in Noord-Brabant. Here, the aircraft will be guarded and refuelled by RNLAF personnel. Possible technical issues with the helicopters can also be addressed at the airbase, which will have US personnel standing by for this purpose. They will be staying in hotels in the area.

Behind the scenes

And finally, Dutch Defence will also be offering support behind the scenes. The Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) has made a security analysis for the operation, and team members of Joint Support Command (DOSCO) will be handling a number of tasks, including the transport of US personnel from and to various locations and the provisioning of the Dutch units. In addition, DOSCO will plan and coordinate the overland transport of American materiel and support the security arrangements in the port area.

The Defence Healthcare Organisation (DGO) and Coördinatiecentrum Expertise Arbeidsomstandigheden en Gezondheid (CEAG) will be advising with regard to the possible consequences of COVID-19 measures and guidelines for operations. They will also be consulting with the relevant safety regions in this context.