Ex Joint Warrior 13 Chinooks Embark for Ex Joint Warrior

Those who deployed from RAF Odiham for Ex Joint Warrior included aircrew from both 18(B) and 27 Sqns, as well as engineering support from 18/27 Eng Sqn, all headed up by, OC C Flt 27 Sqn.

The purpose of the exercise was to support the validation of 3 Cdo Brigade, RM as they become the lead amphibious assault brigade, as well as using the opportunity to qualify a number of crews in ship-borne operations, in preparation for our return to contingency. It would see the Chinooks embark on HMS Illustrious in the North Sea to begin the first extended Chinook embarkation since 2006.

Once on the ship things got off to a fairly steady start, with various tasking lines being flown on the first day by the crews who were already deck qualified. The remainder settled into a routine of finding their way around the boat (“it’s a ship” cry the fish-heads!) whilst trying to stand up in the fairly rough seas, getting their deck qualifications and playing Uckers (Navy Ludo). Meanwhile, the engineers were adapting well to the somewhat different way of doing things at sea – things aren’t as simple as they can be at home. Especially when there are 70kt winds (Gale Force 8!) blowing across the deck at night and you’re trying to rope an aircraft!

After a few days we sailed north and west and lost the protection of the coast. What had seemed rough was in hindsight quite serene as the sea state picked up to a solid 7 for a day or two, leaving a couple feeling a bit ropey. During this time the ship was going through its own validation, and combined with strong winds, and the fresh water supply being contaminated, meant that there were a couple of quiet days on the flying programme eating 24hr ration packs and only drinking ‘goffers’ (cans of pop in Navy speak).

The next big event was the live fire exercise on Cape Wrath, on the northern tip of Scotland. This would see two Chinooks operate with Sea Kings and Lynx to insert two companies of Marines at daybreak. One Chinook decided not to play leaving the other rather busy for the day, but overall the exercise was deemed a success. It served well to highlight a lot of considerations as fleets worked together for the first time in an amphibious environment. Lessons would be learnt and then applied later in the exercise, after a couple more days of ‘ship stuff’ as we sailed around towards the Isle of Arran, and Stranraer.

The det split into a day/night routine, with the night shift picking up the deliberate ops and the day crews taking the random tasking. The first mission was the offload of all the embarked Marines to a target overnight, which went well, and the second mission was to support them in the next phase, launched from the ship. Meanwhile, tasking was varied, from the inter-ship taxi service to primary school PR visits, fetching Lynx spares and delivering safety briefs to foreign troops. It was all working towards a big final mission, but the weather decided that we’d done enough and cancelled the final push for us. All that remained was to get back to dry land…

The offload is famously difficult, and mainly because the Chinook ends up moving everybody else’s stuff for them! True to form, this offload did not disappoint, with multiple ‘just one more run’ requests from the ship, and 10 flying hours between the two crews spent moving vast stores to West Freugh. With that complete it was time to hand over the baton and head south!

The exercise continued with a land phase based out of West Freugh, where 16 Air Assault Brigade were also completing validation training. The aircrew were replaced by 27 Sqn A Flt. Overall, it was a hugely valuable two weeks for the Chinook Force, with many crews operating to a deck for the first time, and numerous challenges were met and overcome.

Written By: Flt Lt Stu ‘Kyno’ Kynaston, 27 Sqn C Flt

Notes: Ex Joint Warrior Summary

Ex Joint Warrior 13-1 ran from 15 to 29 April in locations across the UK and involved 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 and included:

• An airborne air assault and amphibious landings supported by both support and attack helicopters;
• Training for security and counterinsurgency tasks;
• Maritime operations with 49 ships from the Royal Navy, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia and other allies securing the high seas and countering piracy;
• Involvement of up to 40 fixed-wing aircraft including RAF Tornados and Typhoons alongside Rafael and Super Etendard from the French Carrier Air Group;
• Participation of Maritime Patrol Aircraft from partner nations such as the USA, Brazil and Canada.

A variety of other UK and Allied Land forces conducted Forward Air Control (FAC) training in Scotland and Northern England. They included UK units as well as US, French, Swedish, German, Italian and Dutch Marine FACs. Elements of JGBAD including Rapier fire units from 16 Regt RA also practiced air defence.

Ex Joint Warrior is co-ordinated by a core team of Royal Navy and RAF personnel who make up the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) based at Northwood. During the exercise staff deploy to the Joint Warfare Operations Centre (JWOC) based at HM Naval Base Clyde. A number of scenarios were run to test capabilities in the areas of counter-terrorism, counter-smuggling, counter-piracy and interstate warfare among others.

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