The British Army’s Wattisham-based Apache attack helicopters have been flying on a major multi-national exercise in southern Germany.
3 Regiment Army Air Corps is on Exercise Swift Response, the largest exercise for NATO’s rapid reaction forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Some 4,800 soldiers from 11 countries are training together to improve their ability to operate together in response to international crises.
The unit is leading a Joint Helicopter Force of some 280 soldiers and six helicopters flying in support of ground troops. It has planned and executed strike missions by Apaches from its 663 Squadron, as well as moving soldiers and equipment with Chinooks from the RAF’s 18 Squadron.
The British helicopters operated on joint missions with US Army UH-60 Blackhawks and US Air Force CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors.
Out on the Grafenwoehr and Hohnefels training areas, groundcrew ran Forward Arming and Refuelling Points (FARP) – the military equivalent of a Formula 1 pit stop – to maintain the Apaches.
Lance Corporal Matt Davies, 28 said: “Our job is basically to ensure the aircraft is ready and safe to take off on its missions, so we marshal the aircraft on the ground, load the weaponry and refuel it.
“On this exercise we’re doing some real back to basics soldiering while operating very sophisticated aircraft and working alongside American helicopters, which has been an interesting and challenging mix.”
3 Regt AAC’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Mike Neville said: “We need to establish the ground truth of how well we are able to operate with our NATO allies and identify the areas that need fixing; so that when conflict chooses us we are in a position to meet the challenge.
“It’s about understanding the abilities of our different aircraft, how we can talk to each other, how we can sustain operations together, how we can plan together and how we carry out missions together.”