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Spangdahlem firefighters train RAF counterparts on F-16, hydrazine emergency procedures

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joseph Horocofsky, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Protection station chief, stands with members of the Defence Fire Rescue team at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland. Horocofsky and another 52nd CES firefighter conducted specialized training for the RAF Lossiemouth crews ahead of exercise Formidable Shield, currently underway at the base. The training covered the unique aspects of dealing with the F-16 Fighting Falcon during a ground emergency. (Courtesy photo)

RAF LOSSIEMOUTH, Scotland -- Firefighters from the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, recently trained 25 of their Royal Air Force counterparts on emergency procedures ahead of exercise Formidable Shield.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joseph Horocofsky, 52nd CES Fire Protection station chief, and Airman Samuel Lofton, 52nd CES firefighter, refreshed the local first responders on response techniques specific to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, particularly the safe handling of hydrazine.

Hydrazine is a chemical used in the F-16 as a way to restart the aircraft’s jet engine in an emergency, and can be hazardous in the event of a fire or leak. In addition to the unique procedures involving the chemical, the firefighters went over shutdown and aircrew egress for the aircraft.

The squadrons at RAF Lossiemouth fly the Eurofighter Typhoon. According to Horocofsky, the Typhoon and the Fighting Falcon have similarities, but the shutdown procedures – as well as the potential for added complications with the hydrazine – warranted the training.

“RAF Lossiemouth only sees F-16s a few times a year, so our purpose here is to train the local firefighters and act as a liaison for the incident commander in the event of an emergency,” Horocofsky said. “We brought them out to walk around and see the F-16 close up, and a few were allowed to access the cockpit and walked through the shutdown procedure.”

The firefighters from Spangdahlem taught each RAF Lossiemouth fire department shift in three-hour instruction blocks, totaling 12 hours. The briefings were well-received by the RAF and Ministry of Defence firefighters, and was seen as more specialized than the standardized hydrazine training they usually get.

“There were two parts to the training: theoretical and practical,” said Defence Fire Rescue watch manager James Ward. “It was a bit more in-depth, and was a better briefing because it was tailored specifically for firefighters.”

Ward said the training is highly beneficial because it allowed the RAF firefighters a first-hand look at any updated procedures, and for some it was a career first.
“It’s good for the RAF firefighters to get this experience,” he said. “A lot of the younger guys have never even seen an F-16, so it’s nice to be able to get out and get hands-on training so the first time they’re seeing it isn’t in an emergency.”

Ward said while the majority of the emergency procedures used by the Defence Fire Rescue crews mirror the U.S. Air Force’s, small changes – such as hand signals used between rescue crews and pilots – are used to eliminate confusion during a rescue.

“It’s helpful to have a refresher on those,” he said.

With safety as the number one concern for all involved in Formidable Shield, Ward says he and his crews are appreciative of the training, and are ready for any emergency that could arise.

“I am 100 percent confident in our ability to respond,” he said.

Formidable Shield is a U.S.-led exercise, conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO. The purpose of the training is to improve allied interoperability in a live-fire integrated air and missile defense exercise.

Nine nations are participating with ships and aircraft, including Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Both Belgium and Germany are supporting the exercise as well.