Royal Irish Regiment soldiers join forces with US and Bulgarian troops on Exercise Platinum Lion

Soldiers from three nations with one goal have come together on a training exercise in Bulgaria.

C Company 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment has taken part in Bulgaria’s annual military exercise, Platinum Lion 22, at the Novo Selo training area alongside the host nation and United States Armed Forces.

The joint training began on 15 July, lasted two weeks and involved nearly 450 military personnel and around 90 pieces of equipment.

The aim of this year’s exercise was to test and increase Allied nations’ ability to conduct a defence operation as part of a multinational joint operational force.

During the tactical exercises, troops from 1 Royal Irish trained together with Bulgarian soldiers from the 42nd Mechanized Battalion – Yambol, 2nd Mechanized Brigade - Stara Zagora, 2nd Mechanized Brigade - Karlovo, two tank platoons from the Specialist Training Center - Sliven, as well as a mechanized company from the United States Armed Forces.

C Company was in Bulgaria to show solidarity with our NATO Allies and develop how we operate with each other's forces Officer Commanding, Major Ben Jones

Soldiers got hands on experience of each country’s weapons systems. This included opportunities to fire the Bulgarian Land Forces AK-47 assault rifle, PKM machine gun, and MGS90 sniper rifle, the U.S. Army M4A1 assault rifle, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and M240L machine gun and the British Army’s L85A3 assault rifle and L7A1 General Purpose Machine Gun.

The Royal Irish Regiment troops arrived in Bulgaria in May 2022 as part of the UK’s ongoing commitment to developing and strengthening Bulgaria‘s defence and security.

Officer Commanding, Major Ben Jones, said:

“C Company was in Bulgaria to show solidarity with our NATO Allies and develop how we operate with each other’s forces. Exercise Platinum Lion was an excellent opportunity to do this and the Rangers of C Company have learnt much from the Bulgarian and American troops.  

“We were immensely proud to serve alongside our Allies of the Bulgarian 42nd Mechanised Battalion and the US 1-8 Infantry Regiment on this exercise and throughout our deployment in Bulgaria.” 

Assistant to the Defence Attaché Flight Lieutenant Matthew Brain attended the Exercise Platinum Lion closing ceremony, which was observed by senior NATO officials, and said:

“It was great to see UK forces train alongside their Bulgarian and US colleagues, share skills between our nations and strengthen the deterrent defence potential of NATO's eastern flank. As a close NATO Ally, the UK remains committed to the security in the Black Sea region.”

The history of the Royal Irish Regiment stretches from 1688 to the campaigns of the 21st century. Its preceding regiments fought in the Battle of Waterloo, the Battle of the Somme and the Normandy landings.

In recent years, the Shropshire-based 1 Royal Irish Regiment has deployed to Afghanistan on many occasions and is currently deployed to Mali on Operation Newcombe, the UK’s commitment to the UN peacekeeping mission.

Captain Jordan Greene, Officer Commanding Mortar Platoon, C Company 1 Royal Irish Regiment said:

“We were under the command of the US’s 1-8 Infantry, the ‘Fighting Eagles’. Our mission was to partner and mentor the Bulgarian forces. Exercise Platinum Lion saw us develop our tactics and procedures in a taxing, multinational environment. 

“The exercise highlighted the importance of integration with our Allies. It's not possible to operate with partnered forces without a thorough period of integration beforehand. An intimate understanding of each other's capabilities allows for rapid decision-making, mutual support and, ultimately, it enables us to form a credible and effective deterrent to any potential aggressor.”

The UK supports Bulgaria’s efforts to strengthen its defences following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. NATO Allies are resolved to do whatever is necessary to deter threats to NATO territory and defend against any attacks.