‘Eyes in the sky’ help paratroopers hit the target

Paratroopers have experimented with how they could use drones to spot targets and correct the fire of mortars during combat missions as the British Army’s global response force.

2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment’s Mortar Platoon has been refining its tactics for fighting in built-up areas. With buildings restricting the sight lines that mortar fire controllers have in open countryside, troops experimented with using drones as ‘eyes in the sky’ to direct the fire of their 81mm mortars onto targets.

Officer Commanding Mortars Platoon said:“The mortar is the heaviest weapon that 2 PARA has in its ranks, and we train hard to maximise what the platoon can do with that firepower.

“The mortar is the heaviest weapon that 2 PARA has in its ranks, and we train hard to maximise what the platoon can do with that firepower." OC Mortars

“The urban environment is much more complex and congested than rural areas, which means we have to be flexible and innovative in how we operate. A key challenge is how buildings and street layouts restrict the field of vision our mortar fire controllers have. Experimenting with drones has meant that they can see where they wouldn't otherwise be able to see, so that fire can be called in a lot more quickly, accurately, and effectively.”

The Colchester-based soldiers also adapted their firing positions to suit built-up areas, making sandbagged bunkers as well as positions camouflaged to look like building sites or car accidents.

OC Mortars said: “If we’re using drones then we have to expect that enemy observers will be using them, and we need to make sure that our positions are well concealed. The soldiers have really embraced the challenge and been creative in the camouflage that they’ve come up with.”

The training was part of the three-week long Exercise Black Strike, which has seen Support Company, 2 PARA practise their fire and manoeuvre tactics on the rugged Castlemartin and Sennybridge Ranges in South Wales. The unit is equipped with Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles, 81mm mortar, Grenade Machine Guns, Heavy Machine Guns, and General Purpose Machine Guns to provide firepower to support 2 PARA’s rifle companies.

As part of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, 2 PARA is held at very high readiness to deploy anywhere in the world by air in response to global crises. It is a key element of how the British Army will operate under the Future Soldier vision as an ever more agile, lethal, and expeditionary force.