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Ex Griffin Strike 2016

19 April 2016

Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA) has been buzzing with activity for the past ten days as more than 5,000 British and French armoured infantry and airborne troops have been taking part in Exercise Griffin Strike, demonstrating the Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF).

CJEF troops have been conducting a series of equipment, procedural and interoperability training using vehicles and equipment from both countries’ armed forces at various locations around the UK, with the largest element taking place on the SPTA. It is the culmination of six years of UK-French military cooperation.

They are being supported by RAF Typhoons and Chinooks, and French Rafale as well as Army Air Corps Apache attack helicopters. Warships of both nations are deployed to sea from which training and military movements are being coordinated.

Three key elements include:

  • Land Component Command (LCC): a joint UK/French headquarters based in RAF St Mawgan conducting joint planning and command along with a tactical headquarters forward based on SPTA. Running concurrently to this is a LCC live exercise on Salisbury Plain involving 3 PARA with a French mechanised infantry company taking part in parachute drops, and obstacle crossing and urban operations;
  • Air Component Command (ACC): operating from RAF High Wycombe and involving air planning and combat operations command and control;
  • Maritime Component Command (MCC): operating from two Carrier Manoeuvre Boxes in the Bristol Channel with a small contingent at RAF St Mawgan. Activity includes amphibious assaults on to the Pembrokeshire coast with tactical activity in Sennybridge training area.

As the lead land formation on Exercise Griffin Strike, 3rd (UK) Division, has provided most of the personnel from units including 27 Regt RLC, 4 Medical Regiment and 4 Bn REME. The SPTA element of the exercise is being supported by elements of HQ 12 Armoured Infantry Brigade and 1st Battalion Yorkshire Brigade. 16 Air Assault Brigade is also supporting the exercise, with personnel from 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles and 3 PARA.

Operate alongside each other

The national security interests of the UK and France are more aligned now than ever before. Both countries have made a commitment to enhance the long-term bilateral relationship envisaged by the Lancaster House treaties in 2010 in the face of global threats and an increasingly unstable world.

CJEF is an early entry combined force capable of conducting non-enduring, complex intervention operations, facing multiple threats up to the highest intensity. It will be able to conduct offensive and defensive operations on land, in the air and at sea wherever UK and France national defence interests are aligned.

British airborne infantry operating alongside French armoured infantry on Griffin Strike 2016.

It consists of non-permanently assigned existing high-readiness forces, including lead elements at very short notice. Through the CJEF the UK and France will train alongside each other, operate alongside each other and fight alongside each other to act quickly, decisively, and forcefully as a bilateral force or with allies to meet any threat.

This relatively new CJEF concept provides an alternative, European-based response to all types of crises in a coherent and coordinated manner. The integration of French and British staff at the three levels of command and consequent wealth of knowledge enhances the creativity of problem solving.


Strategic and tactical level exercises

The project has been developed through a series of exercises, undertaken each year to develop integrated specialist units, culminating in Exercise Griffin Strike 2016. Previous joint exercises in the programme include:

Ex Corsican Lion 2012: Royal Marines and French Marines working side by side, integrating equipment and communications, to develop a specialist amphibious fighting unit that can take part in a range of land operations.

Ex Joint Warrior 2013: British and French airborne forces from 16 Air Assault Brigade and 11e Brigade Parachutiste trained to carry out operations together, with the partnership maintained and deepened on the French-led Ex Tears of the Sun 2 in 2014 and the British-led Ex Eagles Amarante in 2015.

Ex Capable Eagle 2013: The air component of Ex Joint Warrior comprising RAF Typhoons and French Air Force Mirages. This was the first time the exercise was led by a joint team of French and British air commanders, paving the way for continued cooperation and training at a strategic level.

Ex Rochambeau 2014: A multinational command and control exercise with an Anglo-French CJEF divisional headquarters.

Ex Griffin Rise 2015: French-led exercise held in France; the first of the two bilateral evaluation exercises and forerunner to Ex Griffin Strike 2016. It successfully demonstrated the Combined Joint Task Force’s ability to establish and run a Joint Operation Planning Group.


Ex Griffin Strike 2016 in numbers

  • 3,500 UK personnel
  • 2,000 French personnel
  • 5 UK ships
  • 5 French ships
  • 11 UK aircraft
  • 10 French aircraft

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