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Monday, June 27, 2016

International Observers of MAPLE FLAG


RCAF Press Release
By Lieutenant Peter Broussard

Exercise Maple Flag has many participants, a number of whom are front and centre during the event with their aircraft and participation in the training missions during its four weeks. As well, every year, nations whose aircraft and personnel are not directly involved play in a more passive role: these observers come from all over the world to learn about Maple Flag and the Cold Lake community.

During Exercise Maple Flag, a CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft (left) moves into position to refuel from a CC-130 Hercules aircraft over 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, on June 21, 2016, while two French Air Force Rafale fighter aircraft fly alongside. PHOTO: Corporal Manuela Berger, CK01-2016-0510-214
During Exercise Maple Flag, a CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft (left) moves into position to refuel from a CC-130 Hercules aircraft over 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, on June 21, 2016, while two French Air Force Rafale fighter aircraft fly alongside. PHOTO: Corporal Manuela Berger, CK01-2016-0510-214
The International Observer Program (IOP) is an integral part of Exercise Maple Flag. It is designed to allow representatives of non-participating nations the opportunity to observe the exercise and the local area, and to assess the opportunities for their country presented by 4 Wing/Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Cold Lake and Exercise Maple Flag. This year, the IOP had 22 observers from 11 nations – the largest number in the program in Maple Flag’s history. They came to 4 Wing/CFB Cold Lake to witness how Exercise Maple Flag runs and how it could help with their training needs in the future.

Major (Ret) Keith Agar, program manager international observers (PMIOP), has been running the IOP for the last 9 years and has seen the program grow over his tenure. “Having new countries participating in the IOP helps us gauge the program,” he said, “and shows us there is interest in Maple Flag. The IOP is designed to highlight the professionalism, planning and training available at CFB Cold Lake.”

Mr. Agar explained that it is important to remember that Maple Flag does not compete with other nations’ exercises, but rather can be used in conjunction with other similar exercises in North America. This opportunity to attend multiple exercises can be an important factor for countries that have a great distance to travel in order to participate.

The IOP saw representatives from new nations take part in the observers program this year, and those from nations which have done so in the past. If a nation is unable to actively participate in the exercise, sometimes it will show support for future Maple Flags through its observers in the IOP. This year, three nations all showed their support for future exercises by taking part in in the observers’ program.

Comments from several IOP observers spotlighted the purpose of the program. “We come here, not to make a decision on participation, as that is not our role at Maple Flag; rather, we collect information to take back to our decision-makers,” explained one observer. Another agreed, saying: “We were allowed unfettered access to planning, briefing and debriefing, and exercise staff. The decision my government makes on future participation will be made with all of this information weighed and in mind.”

4 Wing Air Force Tactical Training Centre officer in charge Major Christopher Horch explained that the IOP is a key tool for the RCAF because it showcases Exercise Maple Flag to potential participants. “They have the opportunity to assess the exercise against the needs of the individual nation,” he said, “and report back to their chain of command on the training value. We have received positive feedback this year and hope some of the nations who were a part of the IOP during MF 49 return as active participants in the near future.”