Teamwork test for airborne gunners

From fighter jets to logistics, the teamwork that underpins Colchester’s airborne gunners has been tested on a demanding exercise on Salisbury Plain.

An array of capabilities that would deploy on operations alongside 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (7 Para RHA) in its role providing artillery and influence effects to 16 Air Assault Brigade, the British Army’s global response force, has participated in Exercise Cypher Strike.

Alongside 7 Para RHA’s core capabilities of 105mm Light Guns and Fire Support Teams, who deliver and co-ordinate artillery and close air support for troops on the ground, the unit has been joined by numerous additional capabilities from across Defence, to enhance the training and develop new tactics and procedures.

Weapon locating radars from 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, Exactor missiles of 26th Regiment Royal Artillery and Unmanned Air Systems from 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery joined the exercise, with mortars from 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment and the F-15 fighter jets of the USAF’s 494th Tactical Wing adding to the firepower mix.

Engineers from 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment and logisticians from 13 Air Assault Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps provided their expertise and reservists from 7 Para RHA’s paired unit The Honourable Artillery Company also took part.

Lieutenant Colonel Justin Baker, 7 Para RHA’s Commanding Officer, said: “Exercise Cypher Strike has allowed us to deepen the interoperability between the numerous units that contribute to the spectrum of artillery and influence effects delivered by 16 Air Assault Brigade, whilst also demonstrating our continued very high readiness status, thus ensuring that we remain a potent force."

"The training has been highly demanding but hugely successful at integrating the numerous capabilities to validate a system of systems approach that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

The exercise started with the various elements coming together from their bases across the country at Rock Barracks in Woodbridge. These acted as a forward mounting base for the more than 300 soldiers taking part, allowing troops to assemble and finish their final preparations. Then, following the deployment schedule as if they were moving by air into a new theatre, they deployed onto Salisbury Plain.

The training saw troops using their range of surveillance capabilities to find and track targets, and then hit them using the appropriate choice of weaponry, be that artillery, mortars, missiles or air strikes. Throughout, the force has kept on the move – including troops and guns lifted by RAF Chinook helicopters - to avoid becoming a target for enemy fire.

Lt Col Baker said: “It has been fantastic and well-resourced training built on lessons learnt from the past but focused on developing new techniques for the future. It has truly been a collective effort, undertaken in testing conditions to develop our core skills and enhance their effectiveness. In practising how we will fight together the exercise has exemplified the Ad Unum Omnes – all to one end - motto of Airborne Forces.”