Exercise Joint Warrior is conducted in the spring and autumn of each year, and the first Joint Warrior of 2012 (JW 121) is taking place between 16 and 26 April. The exercise provides co-ordinated training for all three UK Armed Services, along with visiting forces from allied nations such as the US, Denmark, Norway, France, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.
As part of the exercise, aircrew from RAF Leeming are joining with their French counterparts to provide ‘enemy forces’ for what is Europe’s largest tactically-focused military exercise.
The combined efforts of RAF Leeming-based 100 Squadron and 2/2 Cote d’Or Squadron from Dijon will add a unique ‘red air’ or adversary challenge for those on the exercise.
Last week, the two squadrons worked together to prepare for Joint Warrior, building on relationships which were formed when 100 Squadron deployed to Dijon last year for Exercise Epias. Whilst in France, it quickly became apparent that the two units’ very similar roles and attitudes to sorties would enable full integration of their different capabilities.
Officer Commanding 100 Squadron, Wing Commander Christian Gleave, said:
When we mixed the two aircraft types together, what was produced was something that was greater than the sum of its parts - very much a symbiotic capability.
“The French Air Force is almost exactly the same as the RAF in its approach to air power and 2/2 Squadron has an almost identical role to ourselves. We will be completely integrated as one aggressor force for the duration of Joint Warrior, although 100 Squadron will lead most sorties because of protocol.
Our jets are very similar in terms of performance, although the fact that the Alpha jet has two engines and a bigger wing means that it will be able to present an adversary that those on exercise - such as Typhoon - may not be expecting.
Major Ludo Meffre, Officer Commanding 2/2 Cote d’Or Squadron, is also feeling very positive about the benefits of Joint Warrior for all involved. He said:
100 Squadron and us could be considered twins because our missions are exactly the same. Our two forces have come up with exactly the same solution to training aircrew for the front line. I enjoy working with the RAF because they are very professional and have high standards. It is a pleasure to work with them, and everyone learns a lot.
Meanwhile, maritime forces have assembled a task group of a similar configuration to that which stood up to support UN Security Council Resolution 1973 where NATO forces stepped in a year ago to protect the Libyan people from destruction by forces loyal to dictator Colonel Gaddafi. The units being tested under Joint Warrior would be the ones who would be used again under similar circumstances.
As well as Royal Navy warships, minehunters, survey ships, patrol boats, a submarine and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Mounts Bay, members of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines will also be in attendance to practise their amphibious skills. This is a work-up of their core function - their ability to project military power from the sea to land.
45 Commando, part of the brigade, is set to be the lead Royal Marines high-readiness unit from this month, with Joint Warrior confirming that they are ready to deploy at short notice on both amphibious and land operations. Called the Lead Commando Group (LCG) they come under the umbrella of 3 Commando Brigade and, for Joint Warrior, also under Commander UK Task Group, Commodore Paddy McAlpine:
Everyone on the exercise, including the LCG, are training as if they were on their way to war,” said Captain Titterton before the exercise started.
“45 Commando will be embarking on Bulwark and Illustrious on April 14 and 15 and then doing their amphibious training such as landing craft operations before being tasked to raid Galloway Forest from which they will undertake their field training.”
Army representation includes troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade who have today focused on a theatre entry operation into a notional country. The Airborne Task Force (ABTF) used a combination of parachute, air assault and tactical air landings from a C-130 Hercules to seize and secure the airfield at West Freugh.
Once it had landed, the task force, based around the 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland Battle Group, continued to defend the airfield and subsequently conducted several more air assault operations to defeat a notional enemy force. The exercise involved more than 1,600 troops and was supported by Apache, Chinook and Royal Navy Sea King helicopters from the Joint Helicopter Force.
RAF fast jets and support aircraft, as well as several US and French aircraft, will take part in Joint Warrior, and this year the ABTF is joined by a number of personnel from the French 11th Parachute Brigade.