FIGHTER jets, infantry troops, destroyers and submarines will converge on Wales next month for one of the largest military exercises of all time.
The two-week exercise – codenamed Joint Warrior – is designed to recreate a scenario in which Britain and other sovereign nations go to war against a “state-sponsored terrorist movement” – using a vast array of lethal modern weapons.
Taking place between October 6 and October 16, it will provide coordinated training for all three UK Armed Services, plus forces from EIGHT allied nations.
The whole of Wales has been designated as a flying area for the exercise, while so-called “managed danger area” ranges at Castlemartin and Manorbier in Pembrokeshire and Pembrey near Llanelli will be used for ground strafing, bombing and missile practice using live ammunition.
An area of the West Wales coast has also been earmarked as a maritime “warfighting” area for Joint Warrior.
The exercise is aimed at giving pilots, ships’ crews and ground troops vital training before they deploy to war zones like Iraq or Afghanistan.
According to the RAF, Joint Warrior will be particularly useful for Forward Air Controllers (troops directing airborne missile strikes), the role made famous by Prince Harry who became known by his call sign Widow Six Seven while directing fire against the Taliban.
Six companies of infantry, 29 surface and four sub-surface maritime units and 60 aircraft – flying at a rate of about 80 to 100 sorties a day – will be involved in the exercise.
An MoD spokesman said: “The two weeks will develop through a period of tension into simulated warfighting/open hostilities.”
The exercise aims to provide opportunities for all warfighting disciplines including:
nClose Air Support (CAS) – executed by fast jet aircraft and Forward Air Controllers, often using live weapons;
nConvoy Support, Time Sensitive Targeting (TST) and urban close air support scenarios – “in order to replicate current Middle-East operational missions”;
nLarge Force Element (LFE) missions – which will target fixed and mobile targets including inflatable Scud Decoys and Electronic Warfare (EW) emitters simulating surface-to-air threats;
nAnti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface Warfare (AsuW) and also, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions – all carried out by Maritime Patrol Aircraft;
nJoint fires – involving live weapons on ranges in Welsh Wales;
nSubmarine training – boats will complete sub-vs-sub and sub-vs-ship exercises.
The MoD spokesman said: “The exercise will accommodate a squadron of Tornado GR4s from 12 Sqn, RAF Lossiemouth and a squadron of Gripen aircraft from 171 Sqn, Swedish Air Force plus asso-ciated support personnel drawn from support units throughout the RAF.
“This is a particularly important exercise for the Tornado GR4 deployment as this will also act as a full mission rehearsal for their forthcoming deployment to Afghanistan.”
But Squadron Leader Peter Sinclair of the RAF in Wales moved to allay fears about the impact on people – and the environment.
He said: “Some of the exercise areas overlap environmentally-sensitive conservation zones, which contain a wide variety of marine wildlife, sea bird breeding grounds and protected fauna and flora.
“Furthermore, the farming, fishing and tourist industries are important economic activities, which benefit from the natural beauty and relative isolation of some of the exercise areas. Against this background, the MoD recognises the impact of military activity and takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously.
“During the planning of the exercise, Environmental Impact Assessments are conducted for all potentially damaging activities, such as the use of active sonar and live weapons. Furthermore, close working relationships with landowners and key national stakeholders, combined with engagement with local communities, ensure that appropriate environmental mitigation procedures are put in place and then adhered to.
“It should be noted that the MoD has decreed that environmental considerations are always to take priority over the achievement of training objectives. This direction remains a primary consideration throughout exercise planning and execution.”
The director of the exercise, Capt Paddy McAlpine OBE said: “Joint Warrior will offer high-quality joint tactical training with maximum tactical interaction, tailored to meet the participants’ requirements across the whole of the UK whilst creating as little impact on the environment as possible.
“I am sure that the high-fidelity joint tactical training environment provided by JTEPS within Joint Warrior will ensure that UK and allied participants are rigorously prepared for operational tasks in theatres world-wide.”
Sep. 28, 2008
by Robin Turner, Wales On Sunday