CENZUB*, le Centre d’entrainement aux actions en zone urbaine, is a unique facility located near Sissonne in northern France dedicated to the training of ground troops. Spread over 10 square miles, it comprises of two replica villages complete with real houses, school buildings and streets as well as a live-firing range.
These are used by troops to gain practical experience of operations within a challenging urban environment, similar to what they can expect to find in conflict zones around the world. Following the Lancaster House agreement of 2010, British soldiers now have the opportunity to spend two weeks at the centre to put their skills to the test within an urban environment.
On 30 April, the Defence Attaché of the British Embassy Paris visited CENZUB and saw 3 Company Parachute Regiment in action. At CENZUB, soldiers usually have the opportunity to work in cooperation with a company of French soldiers, integrating their skills and resources including weaponry and military vehicles to form an effective battle plan, similar to that they may have to implement during a real deployment. Controlled from a central command centre, the exercises are designed to be as real as possible in order to challenge soldiers and prepare them fully for battle within an urban environment.
With joint-operations and integration of allied forces increasingly commonplace in military operations around the world, the ability to work effectively with foreign troops is of paramount importance. A recent example of this is the conflict in Mali where UK troops provided the French with equipment and logistical support. Indeed, 3rd Company Parachute Regiment were able to benefit from training which included lessons learned from France’s current involvement in Mali, ensuring their experience and training is as relevant and up-to date as possible.
CENZUB can be seen as a tangible example of Franco-British cooperation and the Lancaster House agreement in action, both forces working together to share skills and knowledge in order to strengthen bi-lateral relations and combined defence capabilities.