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‘An excellent alliance’: Scandinavians join British forces for drills

The North Yorkshire-based Royal Lancers teamed up with the Royal Danish Army for Exercise Lucknow Lancer in Scotland last month.

Around 750 personnel, using approximately 300 vehicles, made their way from Catterick Garrison to the Galloway Forest Park, the largest of its kind in the UK.

The aim of the exercise was to develop integration between British forces and NATO partners, as well as prepare soldiers for Operations Cabrit (Poland) and Elgin (Kosovo) later this year.

‘They are always good people to work with’

Lieutenant Colonel Richmond, Commanding Officer of the Royal Lancers, said: “This is about working with our allies and increasing our ability to fight together. It is an excellent alliance and it works really well.

“It is a big exercise. We are bringing together the UK, Denmark, Canada, and the US. It really is a Battlegroup, where we have got all arms represented so we can fight effectively in every way. It’s genuinely brilliant having the Danes here, our cultures are similar. We’ve been working together for decades.”

Danish forces, represented by 150 soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, The Guard Hussar Regiment, were well-received by their British counterparts throughout the exercise.

They can generally understand us if we don’t have too thick of an accent! Sergeant Eaton

Sergeant Eaton, who was in charge of electronic communications in Battlegroup Headquarters, said: “I’ve worked with the Danish on previous operations and they are always good people to work with.

“Their English is really, really good and we can understand what they are trying to say to us. They can generally understand us if we don’t have too thick of an accent!”

Danish troops, operating primarily in in Mercedes-Benz G-Class trucks, advanced with confidence though the giant training area and brought in vital combat power for the Battlegroup.

Brigadier General Nissen, of the Royal Danish Army, said: “Working with British forces, it’s nothing new. We’ve been doing it for 20 years, going back to Kosovo and Iraq. This is a continuation of a long-standing collaboration between our two armies, a valuable one from our point of view.”

Combined arms in action

Although the Royal Lancers, an armoured cavalry regiment, were the lead unit for the exercise, elements from other parts of the British Army contributed in significant ways.

Gunners from the Royal Artillery provided surveillance and target acquisition capabilities as well as extra firepower, while there was also welcome involvement from the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, the Royal Logistic Corps, the Royal Military Police, and the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry.

Sergeant Eaton said: “There’s no better way to prepare than to go through scenarios, training for missions and tasks.”

Additionally, running in tandem with serials that saw troops swooping to attack enemy positions in Jackals, the Household Cavalry Regiment were conducting less explosive training for Operation Elgin.

The US Air Force also supported Exercise Lucknow Lancer by sending in F-15E Strike Eagle fighters, taking off from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, to conduct bombing runs.

Innovation in the hands of soldiers

A number of innovative new platforms were used to boost the effectiveness of the fighting soldier on the ground.

For example, alongside unmanned aerial systems that were utilised to observe enemy forces, troops used an app called Android Tactical Awareness Kit (ATAK) on their body armour-mounted Dismounted Situational Awareness (DSA) mobile devices.

The innovation work that we can do on big exercises like this can be really positive Lieutenant Colonel Richmond

Lieutenant Colonel Richmond said: “ATAK gives us a brilliant opportunity to understand how the most modern technology could enable us to fight more effectively. It shows me where I am, where everyone else is, and it allows us to plan collaboratively and identify targets really accurately on the ground.

“We are also working with civilian satellite technology (Satcube). I’m finding that it is extremely effective as it is easier for people to understand what is going on, what they have been told to do and why. The innovation work that we can do on big exercises like this can be really positive.”

Portable modem Satcube allows swift, reliable communications across the battle space, can be set up relatively quickly, and has a limited physical signature.

Brigadier General Nissen said: “What I’ve seen from the Battlegroup in terms of innovation is really great and it’s something I want to pursue in my Brigade. We need to keep the edge and be better than the enemy.”

The year ahead

Over 100 personnel from Royal Lancers will deploy as a Squadron on Operation Cabrit (Poland) later this year while a group of more than 30 soldiers from the Wiltshire-based Household Cavalry Regiment will be going on Operation Elgin (Kosovo).

The tours are very different, with Cabrit focused on deterrence of threats and reassurance of NATO allies, and Elgin centred around supporting the decision-making process of a multinational NATO headquarters.

However, the basic principles of soldiering remain the same and drills like Exercise Lucknow Lancer enable the British Army, and its allies, to stand up to adversaries in whatever form they may take.