Exercise Bavarian Charger is the first of 3 large exercises being undertaken by the brigade this summer, and is designed to prepare personnel for contingency operations post-Afghanistan.
Captain Strachan-Hayes from Headquarters 20th Armoured Brigade said:
This is the culmination of 4 or 5 months of training within the battle groups of the brigade where we have taken individual soldiers and built up their skills to platoon then company level.
We don’t know what contingency will look like; the future of operations might be very different so we have to look at a broad spectrum of capabilities.
This exercise has focused on the worst case scenario; how we might attack or defend against a force that is of parity, integrating the all arms concept with the aviation assets, and transitioning from offensive operations into security operations where we would be required to protect the local nationals and reassure the population.
The training was split into 3 phases starting with a demanding 2-week live firing package on the ranges of Grafenwöhr, which culminated in a series of attacks with the combined firepower of Challenger tanks, Warriors, Apache helicopters, infantry and artillery assets.
The brigade then travelled to Hohenfels, 100 kilometres further south. This move through open German countryside was designed to simulate the kind of challenges facing an armed force moving through a hostile environment. It also provided an opportunity to test the skills of 1 Logistic Support Regiment, who were co-ordinating the move.
The third phase took place in the heavily wooded and hilly terrain of the Hohenfels training area where the focus was on the planning and execution of operations at battle group and company level.
The 5th Battalion The Rifles (5 RIFLES) and Queen’s Dragoon Guards Battle Groups were tested on tactics which involved sweeping across the battlefield in armoured vehicles before switching to peace support operations that required a more subtle and tempered approach.
For many of the Challenger crews from C Squadron of the Queen’s Royal Hussars this was the first time they had worked together on this kind of terrain and also the first time they had used their tanks in a counter-insurgency battle.
Besides the demanding pace of the exercise another challenge came in the form of the weather, with record rainfall over the 3 weeks causing severe flooding in south Germany and putting a dampener on morale, especially for the infantry troops of 5 RIFLES who were exposed to the unrelenting downpours during the digging-in phase.
Despite this, brigade personnel achieved some valuable training and had the chance to refresh their core skills having returned from Afghanistan in 2012.