Airborne military operation near Thetford ‘to attack, capture and defend’
Scores of soldiers parachuted onto the STANTA training ground, near Thetford, at dusk on Tuesday ready to attack an insurgent stronghold.
Around 700 soldiers, supported by Apache attack helicopters, have spent the last three nights attacking, capturing and defending an enemy base during a full battlegroup operation at the training site north of Thetford.
The operation was the final part of a three-week exercise to test the Air Assault Task Force’s (AATF) ability to mobilise and deploy on operations at short notice.
Involving some 2,000 troops, more than 400 vehicles and 12 helicopters, Exercise Joint Warrior challenged the AATF – made up of the 2 PARA Battlegroup and Joint Helicopter Force 1 – to deploy into an allied country and provide support to tackle an insurgency backed by a hostile neighbour.
The first mission saw troops secure Keevil Airfield on Salisbury Plain and establish a base to evacuate British citizens before carrying out helicopter-borne raids and Apache strikes.
After relocating to Suffolk on Tuesday, 160 paratroopers were taken to the Thetford jump site by Hercules Aircraft from Wattisham, joined later by the remaining troops who flew in on RAF Chinook and Puma transport helicopters.
The exercise was the final validation that, after a demanding year of build-up training, the AATF is ready to go on standby for operations anywhere in the world.
Brigadier Colin Weir, Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: “Joint Warrior is an excellent opportunity for 16 Air Assault Brigade to be put through its paces in its role as the British Army’s airborne rapid reaction force. This realistic and well-resourced training reflects the type of operations that the Brigade could be called on to do, both in terms of the tactical challenges and their expeditionary nature.
“The missions that we will be tasked to achieve within a short space of time are a powerful demonstration of the unique flexibility, reach and agility of airborne troops.”