ROYAL Marine Commandos stormed ashore on an Angus beach by helicopter today to mark the start of the biggest military exercise staged this year by combined European forces.
Nearly 13,000 military personnel from nine countries, including 5,250 from the UK, are taking part this month in Exercise Joint Warrior to test their ability to work together in a series of simulated exercises on land, air and sea.
The massive military exercise swung into action at Barry Buddon beach near Carnoustie where more than 150 Marines from 42 Commando landed by helicopter from HMS Bulwark in a simulated attack on the shores of a hostile nation.
The exercise, which lasts until 29 April, will also involve parachute drops, amphibious landings, and training for security and counterinsurgency operations. The maritime operations alone will involve 49 warships from the Royal Navy, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia and other allies, while airborne assaults will involve of up to 40 fixed-wing aircraft including RAF Tornados and Typhoons, alongside Rafale and Super Etendard aircraft from the French Carrier Air Group.
The locations for other simulated operations will include Stranraer in Dumfries and Galloway, RAF Leuchars and the bombing range at Cape Wrath in Caithness.
Commodore Paddy McAlpine, commander of the UK Task Group, said: “During Joint Warrior we will practise fighting at sea as well as fighting from the sea.
“We’ll practise against a demanding air, surface and submarine threat, entering a hostile environment and then deliver our landing force of Royal and Dutch marines to the right area.”
He added:”Exercises such as Joint Warrior provide us with the scale, diversity and pace that we need to maintain our capability as the naval contingency element of the Response Force Task Group.”
Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, stressed the importance of the multi national exercise. He said: “Exercises of this type ensure that our Armed Forces are prepared to meet any challenge. They give us the chance to test the way the different services and different nations work together, something that is vital in a multi-lateral world.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence explained: “The UK-led Exercise Joint Warrior, which takes place twice a year, aims to test and improve the way that the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force work together and with their counterparts from NATO and other allied nations on operations. UK forces and their international allies are set to test their capabilities to the limit.
“Joint Warrior will involve the full spectrum of military operations spanning all aspects of warfare, testing command and control procedures at both the strategic and tactical levels of conflict.
“The exercise is designed to help prepare the Armed Forces for a wide range of operations they may be called upon to mount and will include a dramatic airborne air assault and amphibious landings supported by both support and attack helicopters, and training for security and counter-insurgency tasks.”
He added: “A variety of other UK and Allied land forces will conduct Forward Air Control (FAC) training in Scotland and Northern England using defence training areas, commercial ranges, and private land areas. These will include UK units as well as US, French, Swedish, German, Italian and Dutch Marine FACs. Elements of Joint Ground Based Air Defence including Rapier fire units from 16 Regiment Royal Artillery will also practice air defence during Exercise Joint Warrior.
“A number of scenarios will be run to test capabilities in the areas of counter-terrorism, counter-smuggling, counter-piracy and interstate warfare among others. “
Exercise Joint Warrior is being co-ordinated by a core team of Royal Navy and RAF personnel who make up the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff based at Northwood HQ in London. Personnel taking part will also be deployed at the Joint Warfare Operations Centre based at the Naval Base at Faslane on the Clyde.