Minister learns more about Europe’s largest military exercise at RAF Halton

Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois MP has witnessed first hand just how Europe’s largest military exercise is coordinated and managed in a visit to RAF Halton.

Joint Warrior is a multinational exercise, that took place off the coast of Scotland. It incorporated all three of the Armed Forces – the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force and over the course of three weeks, engaged more than 35 warships, 25 different types of aircraft, and a total of nearly 13,000 personnel from the various participating nations.

“This exercise sees us working with many of our international allies and this year will be the largest live, tactically-focused exercise held in Europe.”

On his visit to RAF Halton, which acted as headquarters for the exercise, he received a detailed update on Joint Warrior, learning more about the scope, those participating, the complexities and scale of the activity. He also visited the Initial Force Protection Training (IFPT) unit, where he had a hands-on session with instructors and was fitted for a new style respirator.

Joint Warrior sees ships, submarines, aircraft and ground troops from the UK, US, Netherlands, France, Turkey and other NATO allies take part, battling each other at sea, in the air and on land, in an area which stretches from the Irish Sea,  north to Cape Wrath and east to the Moray Firth.

The Royal Air Force provided fast jet aircraft in the form of Hawks, Tornados and Typhoons, simulating enemy aircraft and missiles as well as providing conventional air warfare capability within the scenario. In addition to this, RAF surveillance aircraft supplied the Royal Navy with a detailed picture of enemy movements and positions.

The Royal Navy had 12 ships taking part in the exercise. The crews involved used the exercise to prepare for their imminent deployments to the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Middle East, where they will carry out activities including deterring adversaries, conducting maritime security operations, reassuring allies and providing humanitarian disaster relief.

Members of 3 Commando Brigade, including force elements from 24 Commando Engineer Regiment and 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, embedded nearly 1,300 commandos across the ships, enabling them to undertake a large scale amphibious assault on a beach in Cumbria.

The Army were represented on the exercise by members of the 16 Air Assault Brigade, who were joined by RAF, Army and Commando Helicopter Forces, with Apache, Chinook, Sea King, Lynx, Merlin and Puma helicopters providing critical attack support, and reconnaissance capabilities. Logistic support to air assets was provided by the Tactical Supply Wing of the RAF.

Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois said: “Exercise Joint Warrior represents a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the vast range of capabilities available for contingency operations and provides excellent training to test the high readiness of our Armed Forces.

This exercise sees us working with many of our international allies and this year will be the largest live, tactically focused exercise held in Europe. The level of management and coordination required is formidable and I was extremely impressed by what I witnessed at Joint Warrior’s headquarters at RAF Halton.”

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