This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Instructors from Australia, Denmark, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Belgium and Denmark came together with personnel from the RAF’s 904 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) to provide coaching in how to safely handle and shoot each other’s personal weapons.
Sergeant Wayne Hopewell, from the RAF Regiment, who organised the event, said:
Over 200 people from many nations serving at Kandahar have come through today. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us all.
It makes the international partnership come alive. If something were to happen to one of our coalition colleagues, we would be able to safely take control of their weapon.
Garrison Sergeant Major at 904 EAW, Warrant Officer Steve Whitlock, said:
It’s a good experience; people who have never had a chance can now practise on other rifles and pistols.
Yes, it is fun, and that’s what good training should be, but there’s a direct link between today’s shoot and the ability of our people working side-by-side with coalition partners to render weapons safe when necessary.
All trades and ranks were seen on the ranges at Kandahar Airfield. And all services; Royal Navy and British Army personnel form an integral part of the 904 EAW team. There were also pilots with the famous 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron badge on their sleeves.
These pilots usually carry a 9-millimetre pistol whilst on operations in their Tornado GR4 aircraft, but, in an incident on the ground, they would find themselves working alongside other nations using other weapons.
Also on the range were those who provide the administration essential to keep an air wing ticking over efficiently, whether providing ground support air cover, tactical air transport or surveillance capability.
Just after finishing a shoot, Corporal Andy Coombes from the RAF, who manages accommodation at Kandahar, said:
It’s been a very interesting afternoon. It’s very rare that I get the chance to be ‘hands-on’ with other weapons. It is on operations that we have the chance to train with other nations and get a feel for how your kit compares with others.
Weapons demonstrated included the US M4 carbine and its Danish-issue cousin with a ruggedized telescopic sight. Also in use was the distinctive F88 Austeyr assault rifle used by Australian forces – recognisable by its swept-back telescopic-sight-cum-carrying-handle and its desert colour.
Less recognisable to many was the 7.62-millimetre Slovak issue vz. 58 which, superficially, resembles the AK-47 favoured by insurgents, but has a quite different mechanism.