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Cooperative Key

The Cooperative Key exercise was first organized in 1996 under the Allied Forces Southern Europe command. It was held in Romania 17-27 October 1996.

Cooperative Key 97 was a NATO/PfP live air exercise held 13-18 July at Sliac and Piestany Air Bases in Slovakia. Five NATO nations (France, Greece, Italy, Turkey and the United States) and seven PfP nations (Austria, Czech Republic, FYROM, Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia) participated in the exercise. The LIVEX/AIREX was a joint AF exercise of NATO and PfP countries focused on procedures, technique and SAR operations, MEDEVAC, CAS, and PSO. Personnel included 633 persons, along with 20 combat and transport planes (MiG-29, SU-25, F-16, C-130 Hercules, etc.), 12 combat and transport helicopters (Mi-24, Mi-17, etc.).

Cooperative Key 98

Air forces of five NATO countries and 10 members of the Partnership for Peace (PFP) held air exercises in Turkey between July 15 and 24, 1998. Cooperative Key '98 was aimed at maintaining standarts in peace operations and increasing cooperation among the member countries. Air Force aircraft from Bulgaria, Italy, Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey and the United States took part in the exercises, which mainly focused on humanitarian aid and search and rescue operations.

Almost 200 U.S. Air Force members from units around the world participated in COOPERATIVE KEY 98 (CK98), the largest and most complex NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) live air exercise to date. The exercise, designed to develop a common understanding of Peace Support Operations (PSO) and to practice interoperability between nations' forces, began July 17 and continued through July 24 in three separate locations in central Turkey. Six NATO nations and eight PfP nations contributed 680 people and 43 aircraft to the event, which NATO exercise planners from Allied Forces Southern Europe (AFSOUTH) began organizing in August 1997.

CK98 was held within the framework of the Partnership for Peace Program launched at the NATO Summit in January 1994 and enhanced after the Madrid Summit in 1997. The aim of the program is to provide an opportunity for non-NATO nation to develop co-operative military relations with NATO for the purpose of joint planning, training and exercises. PfP activities are a means for both NATO and Partner Nations to strengthen their ability to undertake missions of peacekeeping, search and rescue, and humanitarian operations.

CK98 was the first PfP exercise in the Southern Region to use the Multi-National Combined Air Operations Center (MNCAOC) to control the medical evacuation, airdrop, close air support, search and rescue, and air defense flying missions. The MNCAOC allows the entire air effort to be planned and controlled from one location. This ability to control air operations from a single location ensures a continuity of effort and permits rapid response to changes. The MNCAOC provides Air Tasking Orders (ATOs) to aircrews which give detailed instructions on the exercise flying missions. Ninety-five people from most of the participating nations played roles in one of the center's cells: intelligence, operations, CAS, rescue coordination, air defense, plans, communications and logistics.

CK98 was also the first PfP exercise in the Southern Region to introduce No-Fly Zone enforcement missions in a peace support operation context. Six F-16s from the 555th Fighter Squadron, Aviano Air Base, Italy, along with maintenance, logistics and support personnel from the 31st Fighter Wing there, are working alongside NATO and non-NATO participants in teaching and learning roles. The Triple Nickel jets came mainly to demonstrate our procedures in Close Air Support, Forward Air Control, and air interceptor techniques in a simulated No-Fly Zone.

The US fighter aircraft flew along with French Mirage 2000s, Italian F-104s, Turkish and Portugese F-16s, Bulgarian SU-25s, Romanian MiG-21s, and Slovakian MiG-29s in CAS and air defense roles. Transport aircraft and helicopters from Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia are taking part in Search and Rescue and MEDEVAC missions. The NATO Airborne Early Warning Force E-3A worked airspace control during the three major flying days of the exercise, July 21-23.

CK98 was under the direction of Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH), U.S. Navy Adm. T. Joseph Lopez, and was commanded and coordinated by the Commander, Allied Air Forces Southern Europe (COMAIRSOUTH), U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short. Exercise Co-Directors, who were directly responsible for the conduct of the exercise were U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Waskow, AIRSOUTH Chief of Staff, Naples, Italy, and Turkish Air Force Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Buyukyumukoglu, Chief of Staff, Sixth Allied Tactical Air Force, Izmir, Turkey.

Cooperative Key 2000

Cooperative Key 2000 took place at the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base near Constanta, Romania. These type of exercises typically test participating countries' military hardware as well as how easily forces interact when thrown together in an emergency. According to NATO, the organization focuses not only on exercises but defense planning and budgeting and civil emergency operations.

The following scenario was developed specifically for exercise Cooperative Key 2000. The intend is to provide aircrews with a framework to define training missions they will be tasked to fly during the course of the exercise. The scenario is totally fictional, and is in no way intended to reflect real world current or historical events.

For the past five months the country of Yellowlandia has been on the verge of a civil war, resulting in the collapse of law and order, anarchy on the streets and a major refugee crisis involving neighboring countries. Opposition parties, who had demanded the resignation of the President, finally lost patience and took to the streets, clashing with police and Interior Troops. The situation rapidly deteriorated resulting in civil war. The months of bitter fighting have left at least 20.000 people dead and thousands more wounded. The country's armed forces are in disarray with many units deserting to join armed rebel units who are supporting opposition groups. Garrisons and airfields have been looted and armed rebels have now retreated to fortified positions. The few loyal Army Commanders are continuing to voice support for the President but as yet have remained in barracks and so far have avoided confrontation with the rebels.

The country's President, Mr. Oscar, having seen his Government lose control of the situation, asked the United Nations to intervene. For several weeks UN Envoy Mr. Charlie attempted to negotiate peace with the rebel factions and opposition groups but eventually recommended military peacekeeping intervention. With pressure from Graylandia's neighbors, who were worried that the conflict would spread across their borders and from aid agencies attempting to deal with the refugee crisis, the UN finally asked NATO to deploy a multi-national task force to conduct Peace Support Operations (PSO) in Yellowlandia.

Yellowlandia's well trained mainly conscript armed forces comprised a pre-war total of 60.000 soldiers organized into 2 x Tank Div and 2 x MR Div. Ground units were supported by 3 x Sqns of fighter ac and 1 x Sqn of attack helicopters. Strategic targets are protected by a well trained network of surface to air missile batteries (SAM) and mobile tactical SAMs were deployed with all four Divisions. A small air transport fleet of medium range aircraft and helicopters is also available. (A full ORBAT breakdown will be issued at STARTEX).

A UN multi-national task force was deployed to the eastern region of Yellowland three weeks ago with the intention of keeping the warring factions apart as part of a PSO. Quick Response PSO airborne ground forces (3x Brigades) supported by light tanks and artillery are deployed in three key locations. Forward deployed PSO aircraft are also operating from neighboring GREENLAND. Fighter aircraft, fixed, and rotary wing transport aircraft, NAEW&C and SAR units are deployed to M.Kogalniceanu (MK) Airbase as well as an airborne Battalion. PSO air reconnaissance units are operating from bases in Southern and Northern Italy.

A 100 Km Demilitarized Zone and No-Fly Zone (NFZ) will be established along the western and southern side of yellowlandian border, in order to protect PSO forces deployed and refugees en route Greenland and Graylandia.

At least 5000 refugees have managed to cross the border into neighboring countries but many are still attempting to flee, mainly along the Southern border with Yellowland where the border crossings remain closed. Refugees from the North and West of the country are also streaming towards the capital city QUEBEC where the capital's resources are nearly exhausted. Aid agencies are struggling to cope with this problem where stocks of food, medicines and emergency shelters are at a critical level. UN and PSO airlift has also been requested to bring emergency aid supplies into Yellowland.

A fragile cease-fire, negotiated by OSCE, has been in force for the past 72 hours with general compliance by all sides reported. However, recent HUMINT reports suggest that the opposition forces renewed the offensive in an attempt to capture the town of LIMA. PSO forces are aggressively patrolling major routes and lines of communications and mounting checkpoints at major route intersections. Air Reconnaissance is being conducted over known warring factions positions and along border crossing points.

Cooperative Key 01

Cooperative Key 01 (CK01) was an annual Partnership for Peace (PfP) exercise conducted at Graf Air Base in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Bulgaria hosted for the first time the Partnership for Peace Cooperative Key 2001 multinational air exercise 11-21 September 2001 at the Graf Ignatievo air base, Krumovo airport and Koren training field. The exercise is a scenario-based and focuses on close air support, combat air patrol, search and rescue, medical evacuation and tactical airlift operations in peace support operations. The exercise also focuses on command and control structure and interoperability and allows the participating nations to practice setting up a multi-national air operations center.

CK01 demonstrates support and commitment between NATO and PfP countries and supports U.S. European Command's commander-in-chief theater engagement policy. More than 1,300 military personnel participated, together with representatives of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in support of CK-01's exercise scenaraio.

A total of 25 countries will participate with 72 planes and helicopters and a staff of over 1300 persons. Over 300 flights are planned with a view to achieve the practice goals. The following countries will take part in the practice: Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Canada, Latvia, Moldova, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, the USA, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Finland, France, Holland, Croatia, Sweden, Switzerland, part of NATO's early warning forces (NAEW), joint operating centers of NATO's air force (CAOC) 5 and 7, the headquarters of NATO's integrated military command structure, UNHCR.

Approximately 70 aircraft participated in Cooperative Key 2001, in which 39 jets, 10 transport aircraft, one AWACA system, and 23 helicopters from 22 counties participated.

Additionally, there were Special Operations Force (SOF) ground elements from several of the nations, to include a force reconnaissance company of United States Marines. It was a major live exercise with numerous flying missions involving a mix of both the aircraft and ground forces of the involved nations. Missions included combat fighter air defense, ground attack and reconnaissance sorties: SOF air drops, both high and low; and numerous helicopter missions involving Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), MEDEVAC, non-combatant evacuation and re-supply.

Specifically, CK 01 was a Partnership for Peace (PfP) field training exercise (FTX) that allowed NATO and Partner Nations to practice and refine interoperability in a wide variety of actual flying missions. The exercise replicated actual command and control systems in real time using a Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC), Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Aircraft furnished by NATO, and individual aircraft control systems. The first five days of the exercise (11 to 15 September) were dedicated to in-briefings, ground and flight training, and setting up the various operations and control centers, plus USAF officers and non-commissioned officers trained for certain selected missions.

The PfP program is a U.S. Secretary of Defense initiative designed to promote cooperation and mutual understanding between NATO and PfP nations. Exercises conducted under the auspices of PfP are designed to promote interoperability for future peace support missions that involve NATO and PfP nations.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organizations used this annual exercise to grade how well the air forces of countries wishing to join the alliance can work together. Exercise Cooperative Key 2001 marked the first time the alliance officially grades members of Partnership for Peace on sky worthiness.

Two Bulgarian airfields in the vicinity of the city of Plovdiv were used for the exercise. The exercise Headquarters, the CAOC, and all fighters and helicopters were located at Graf Igniatevo Airfield, which had been significantly upgraded prior to the exercise. The HQ and CAOC were housed in a rather new and modern building, and the airfield was well suited for all aspects of fighter and helicopter operations. In addition, a company of U.S. Marines, along with some other countries' Special Forces troops, were billeted in a hangar at Graf Igniatevo. Airlift aircraft and the NATO AWACS were stationed at Krumovo/Plovdiv Airport, the local commercial airport for Plovdiv. The rules on low-level flight operations and other flying operations, which were not restrictive, allowed for realistic and freewheeling flight operations for both fixed and rotary wing aircraft. The extensive actual flying area promoted an excellent training environment. With the exception of Alaska, this is probably the best environment for a live flying exercise in several years.

The training week (11 to 15 September) began with academics on CSAR operations conducted by two experienced USAF majors from the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt AFB, Florida, and the Air Force Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nevada, respectively. This training proved invaluable, since almost all of the aircrews had never been involved in a CSAR Task Force, flown with Gunships in formation, or even flown in formation with other helicopters in tactical scenarios. None had ever flown with the A-10s operating in a combat rescue role (Sandy mission). The flight training during this week was dedicated to formation flying since it was not possible to fly with the A-10 squadron. However, the available USAF CSAR-experienced personnel assigned to NATO were able to teach the various PfP aircrews about Joint CSAR tactics, techniques, and procedures, which proved to be valuable for the actual missions the next week. Fortunately, the A-10 aircrews were released to participate in the exercise in time to fly in support of the CSAR Task Forces during the week of 17 to 20 September. In addition, their flight leader briefed with the helicopter crews for each mission, which also proved to be useful.

The CAOC was the focal point for all facets of the operational missions held the second week of the exercise (17 through 20 September) The CAOC equipment and experienced key personnel were furnished by NATO's AIRSOUTH Command in Naples, Italy. In fact, AIRSOUTH personnel accomplished a majority of the planning for the exercise. AIRSOUTH also furnished the Exercise Director and key personnel throughout all exercise areas. The CAOC consisted of a combat plans section and a combat operations section, which is normal for NATO operations. Combat plans generated Air Tasking Orders (ATOs), and combat operations executed them. The Joint Search and Rescue Coordination Cell (JSRCC) was located in the first row of the combat operations room which was an ideal location for them with respect to rapidly coordinating their CSAR missions.

Seven PfP nations furnished helicopters for CSAR events. Additionally, Switzerland furnished a PUMA helicopter configured for medical evacuation and SAR, and the USAF provided four A-10s with experienced CSAR aircrews. In every respect, the CSAR events provided much needed training for all participants - most of whom had never participated in CSAR events.

The entire exercise is based around a simulated U.N. call for help from NATO forces to support humanitarian operations. The scenario is fictitious, and details weren't announced. They're very intensive, almost worst-case scenarios. Past Cooperative Key exercises centered around missions such as quelling fighting between ethnic factions in a fictitious Eastern European country.

The exercise consists essentially in performing aviation tasks related to peace-keeping operations, search and rescue, aircraft medical evacuation, making airborne landing, air-defense, immediate aircraft support, and ground operations. An aircraft operation center (AOC) provided the management and control throughout the practice.

The "Cooperative Key" practice aims at providing in adherence to the general goals of the "Partnership for Peace" initiative an opportunity to NATO members and partners to practice and improve the operative compatibility among themselves on the basis of the huge variety of tasks in the context of peace-keeping operations.

The "Cooperative Key 2001" scenario consists in conducting a NATO-led peace-keeping operation. Two ostentatious fractions at war in the past are now in the situation of fragile peace. A NATO-led peace-keeping operation involving partners as well and aiming at peace-making and providing humanitarian assistance is conducted.

For the purposes of the practice the scenario will focus on the aircraft element of the peace-keeping operation. A premeditated list of events and incidents (MEL & MIL) necessitating deployment of NATO and partners' forces and actions of said forces will be used.

The development of the situation will be a result of increased tension. NATO and the partners will deploy air and land reconnaissance units to keep track of the situation. Incidents with a large number of victims among the civilian population as a result of artillery attacks of the opposing sides will be simulated.

Immediate air support aircraft will be assigned the task to neutralize the threat to the civilian population. The increasing tension will bring about an enormous flow of refugees from the disputable border zone. In response to the situation AOC will organize and send forces for evacuation of the civilian population who will be rebased from Graf Ignatievo and will organize a despatch base in Kroumovo near the refugee concentration zone. Those forces will create a situation of security and will conduct a humanitarian operation. The On Scene Commander (OSC) will deploy a management and control group, perform on the spot assistance to victims, evacuation of the civilian population and ensuring the safety of the latter, and a logistics operation.

The aircraft and the security forces taking part in the peace-keeping operation were assigned tasks related to the evacuation of the civilian population from the distant disputable zone. Immediate air support was provided for this operation. It was performed within the range area (Koren). Helicopters took the civilian population and the security forces from the border zone to the base in Kroumovo. There the civilians were received and handled by the operating humanitarian aid system, and the security forces will be assigned a task of participation in further operations.

For the airborne medical evacuation purposes there was created a system for evacuation by helicopters of victims and refugees with risk for their health from the despatch base in Kroumovo to the main base in Graf Ignatievo and their transfer to the near medical facility for treatment and boarding if necessary on an air medical evacuation plane for simulated transportation out of the operation region.

Under the scenario of this exercise, about 20,000 refugees are reported to have fled in the midst of an air conflict between warrying parties inside of Bulgaria. NATO - Partnership for Peace (PfP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with an international mandate for protection and assistance for refugees, along with non-governmental organizations, namely the Bulgarian Red Cross, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and CARITAS in cooperation with the Agency for Refugees at the Council of Ministers were called upon to provide emergency protection and assistance for the refugees, some of whom are elderly, breast-feeding mothers, unaccompanied minor children, in serious medical condition.

UNHCR coordinated to conceptualization of the emergency operation in a joint effort with the participating agencies according to international protection and emergency assistance standards. The Bulgarian authorities, through the Ministry of Defense, established the refugee camp, with a capacity of about 150 refugees at any one time, that met internationally recommended requirements, such as minimum space, water, sanitary facilities and power supply, etc. The Military Medical Academy, also on the basis of experience gathered in the emergency operation of Kosovo and building a refugee camp in Radusha in the FYROM in 1999, established and operated the emergency medical facility for immediate attention on arrival in the camp.

Cooperative key 01 affords the opportunity for NATO and PfP countries to practice and refine interoperability. About 1,300 people from U.S. forces participated in the exercise.

Marines from Co. B, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, Billings, Mont., participated in an air and ground exercise, Cooperative Key 01, Sept 10 - 21. During the exercise, which took place on several military installations throughout the Bulgarian countryside, the Marines played a vital role in the planning and execution of the various ground and air combat missions that took place. Cooperative Key is an annual "Partnership for Peace" exercise. This year the scenario-based exercise focused on close air support, combat air patrolling, search and rescue missions, medical evacuations, and tactical airlift operations during a peacetime support operation. The reconnaissance Marines began their portion of the exercise, in the early afternoon, by parachuting into their objective. While the Montana Marines, along with Bulgarians and Romanians worked together as allies, by conducting attacks, processing simulated enemy prisoners of war, and evacuating mock casualties.

About 120 airmen from the 81st Fighter Squadron and other units returned 21 September 2001 from Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, where they participated in Cooperative Key '01. The exercise, which included participants and aircraft from 25 nations, tested the interoperability between Partnership for Peace nations and NATO members during peacetime support operations. The three-day scenario featured an aggressor nation attempting to take over another. PfP and NATO forces were charged with defending and protecting refugees from aggressor forces. The 81st FS, the first and only U.S. fighter unit to fly out of Bulgaria, arrived early for a bilateral weapons training deployment.

The 140 humanitarian- and refugee workers and refugee role players, as well as CIMIC and the respective members of the 1,300 military personnel from 24 NATO - Partnership for Peace nations and esp. from NATO HQs Airsouth greatly contributed to the success of this refugee-peace enforcement training and simulation exercise, which at the same time offered a precedent setting opportunity for capacity- and institution building on the one side and for strengthening of Bulgaria's refugee emergency preparedness and response on the other hand of the national refugee government and non-governmental partners involved.

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