During a recent 2 PARA Battle Group operation in the area of Nahr-e Saraj (South), the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment's (2 RTR's) Mastiff Group conducted a joint operation with their Leopard tank counterparts in the Danish Army.
The operation was conducted over four days and three nights when 11 men of 17 Troop, Falcon Squadron, deployed in their three Mastiffs alongside the Danish Leopard tank platoon consisting of three tanks and an armoured personnel carrier.
The group deployed to an overwatch position south of the Helmand River to support an operation conducted by C (Bruneval) Company, 2nd Battalion The Parcahute Regiment (2 PARA), on the other side of the river, deep in the Green Zone.
With impressive mounted sights on the vehicles, the group was able to track the movements of C (Bruneval) Company as they conducted their operations and keep a watchful eye out for insurgent activity in the area.
The operation witnessed C (Bruneval) Company establishing a presence in the community of Tajikan which has previously been influenced by insurgents.
As a result of the successful operation, C (Bruneval) Company now operates from a checkpoint that is situated in a compound previously used as a command and control node for insurgents in the area.
Following the establishment of a presence in the area, Commanding Officer 2 PARA, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Harrison, immediately conducted a shura (consultative meeting) with local nationals to address any grievances that they had.
Once it was confirmed that the presence of 2 PARA was welcomed, C (Bruneval) Company maintained their presence in the area to provide security for the local nationals.
Reflecting on the success of operating from a compound that was previously occupied by insurgents, Lt Col Harrison said:
It has been a thorn in the side of ISAF, the local people and the Afghan National Police and Army over the last couple of years and we now dominate that village.
With the presence of the tanks to the south of the river in a position for local nationals to see, it is likely that the presence of the Leopard main battle tanks (MBTs) acted as a deterrent to insurgents fighting in the area.
Indeed, some reports indicated that the insurgents that were in the area left once the tanks could be seen. Nevertheless, the location of the tanks ensured that if the operations became kinetic, then the tanks were in an ideal position to use their main armaments to support the troops on the ground.
During the day, the Mastiffs deployed along a kilometre of ridge line to gain the best views possible. At night, the Mastiff group deployed dismounted sections on foot patrols down to the Helmand River and observed potential insurgent positions.
Officer Commanding the Mastiff Group that conducted the operation, Captain James Nightingale, Second-in-Command Falcon Squadron, 2 RTR, recognised the utility of conducting an operation with main battle tanks to support the C (Bruneval) Company soldiers on the ground:
The presence of a MBT in overwatch strikes fear into the enemy. This has been proven time and time again. The effect a MBT can achieve is varied, but at the very least it acts as a deterrent to insurgent activity.
Trooper Sam Cartwright, 17 Troop, Falcon Squadron, 2 RTR, said:
Tanks are our bread and butter, so it was great to get out there and do our job, especially with a Tank Regiment from another nation.