British and French paratroopers have demonstrated the firepower they can bring to bear during demanding live firing training in the rugged hills of North Macedonia.
Training together to be ready to respond together to international crises, the paratroopers of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment and 8e Régiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine fought their way through challenging battle lanes by both day and night.
The troops were delivered into action by RAF Chinook and US Army Blackhawk helicopters, protected by the powerful sensors and potent weapons of 4 Regiment Army Air Corps’ Apache attack helicopters. On the ground, the paratroopers had to overcome enemy positions as well as blowing their way through defensive obstacles, evacuating casualties, and securing evidence of an atrocity against civilians.
With 2 PARA’s mortars, the 105mm Light Guns of 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, the Apaches’ 30mm cannons and the Chinooks’ 7.62mm Miniguns firing in support, the training is known in military jargon as a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX).
Major Steve White, officer commanding C (Bruneval) Company, 2 PARA, said: “As a company commander, a combined arms attack is about coordinating all the fire support available to the platoons so that they can succeed in the close fight. With the confidence to use initiative and take calculated risks at all levels, we can seize opportunities and generate tempo.
“The company performed to a high standard on a complex range over difficult terrain. Ultimately the quality of our paratroopers is what always shines through - their speed, controlled aggression and high standard of low level skills.”
Private Fin Doherty said: “For me, being ready to fight like this is what being a paratrooper is all about. The CALFEX went well for my section - we’ve built a strong team, know what we’re all supposed to do and get on with it. Physically it was hard work on loose, rocky ground with all the enemy positions on top of hills but I find these attacks just as exhausting if they’re on the level, because I give all I’ve got to win the fight.”
The manoeuvres in North Macedonia, called Exercise Swift Response, sees 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team (BCT), the British Army’s global response force, command a force of 3,000 troops from eight NATO countries.
The British contingent is made up of the 2 PARA Battlegroup, built around the airborne infantry of 2 PARA supported by artillery, engineers, logisticians, medics, and signallers from 16 Air Assault BCT; and Aviation Task Force 1 with Apache attack helicopters and Chinook support helicopters.
The CALFEX is a key element of initial training to build the joint force’s skills and relationships before it deploys by parachute and helicopter to practice offensive and defensive operations.