The British Army’s rapid reaction force is demonstrating the unique reach and agility that its specialist air manoeuvre capabilities provide.
Some 2,000 troops, more than 400 vehicles and 12 helicopters from the Air Assault Task Force (AATF), commanded by 16 Air Assault Brigade, are on Exercise Joint Warrior. The three-week (20 Mar-7 Apr) exercise tests the AATF ability to mobilise and deploy on operations at short notice.
The exercise represents the final validation that the AATF is ready to go on standby for operations anywhere in the world after a demanding year of build-up training. It is made up of the 2 PARA Battlegroup - built around the airborne infantry of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment bolstered by artillery, engineers, medics, signallers and logisticians - and Joint Helicopter Force 1, commanded by 4 Regiment Army Air Corps with Apache attack helicopters and RAF Chinook and Puma 2 transport helicopters.
Paratroopers from 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment are transported by RAF Chinook helicopter
Joint Warrior has challenged the AATF to deploy into an allied country and provide support to tackle an insurgency backed by a hostile neighbour.
After the AATF was alerted and mobilised, the first mission saw troops secure Keevil Airfield on Salisbury Plain (26 Mar) to establish a base to evacuate British citizens – known in military jargon as a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO). Through the week, further tasks included planning and executing helicopter-borne raids and Apache strikes against enemy positions. The AATF then relocated 200 miles across the country to Woodbridge, Suffolk to insert troops by parachute (4 Apr) and helicopter on to the STANTA ranges in Norfolk to attack an insurgent stronghold.
Soldiers from 2 PARA Battlegroup jump into Stanta at the culmination of Exercise Joint Warrior from a C130 Aircraft, from Wattisham
Brigadier Colin Weir DSO MBE, Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: “Joint Warrior is an excellent opportunity for 16 Air Assault Brigade to be put through its paces in its role as the British Army’s airborne rapid reaction force. This realistic and well-resourced training reflects the type of operations that the Brigade could be called on to do, both in terms of the tactical challenges and their expeditionary nature. The missions that we will be tasked to achieve within a short space of time are a powerful demonstration of the unique flexibility, reach and agility of airborne troops.”
Exercise Joint Warrior takes place twice a year and aims to test how the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force work together and with allied forces.