French paratroops arrived at the Army’s Wattisham Flying Station on Sunday to take part in a two-week joint exercise with their British counterparts.
Exercise Eagles Amarante involves 1,800 troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade, of which Wattisham’s Apaches are a part, and 11e Brigade Parachutiste. These brigades provide their armies’ rapid reaction forces and the MoD says are at the forefront of Franco-British military co-operation.
Together they form the Interim Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (I-CJEF) which is ready to deploy at short notice on operations anywhere in the world.
The two-week exercise started, with British and French troops and equipment converging on Wattisham Flying Station, which is being used as a forward mounting base for the joint force to plan and execute missions from.
The ground troops are supported by British and French aircraft, including Apache attack helicopters from 4 Regiment Army Air Corps; Merlin, Chinook and Puma support helicopters and Hercules transport aircraft from the RAF; Gazelle and Puma helicopters from Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre and Transall transport aircraft from the Armee de l’Air.
Their overall task is to restore stability to a ‘troubled region’, with a key task being a helicopter-borne night raid on Rock Barracks, Woodbridge before the troops parachute onto the Stanta Ranges in Thetford to assault enemy positions.
Major Chris Prior, second-in-command of 2 Para, said: “Working with the French is a fantastic opportunity and we are sharing experiences and learning a lot from each other already.”
Major Stephan Cognon, chief of staff of 1er RCP, said: “This training is about improving our ability to work together at all levels, from the planning and decision making to the paratroopers working side-by-side on the ground.”