Exercise Voijeks Strike

In January 663 Sqn, 3 Regt AAC planned and conducted Exercise VOIJEK’S STRIKE, an Attack Helicopter (AH) Sqn level Air Land Integration exercise alongside the RAF and US Force Elements from RAF LAKENHEATH and MILDENHALL. The Exercise was based out of Wattisham but incorporated training serials around Norfolk and Suffolk, with STANTA and Sculthorpe being the main focus of activity.

The training was arranged in line with the Sqn’s focus on returning to Land Contingency. Capitalising on relationships developed between units and our US counterparts over years of operating alongside them in Afghanistan. The Sqn Ops team developed a detailed and mutually beneficial training schedule that incorporated an impressive array of UK and US assets. A combined UK/US J2 team worked on developing an intelligence picture to support a hybrid threat environment focusing on adversary Armour and Asymmteric tactics. This allowed us, in particular, to test our familiarity with rapidly switching between Hi and Low Level Tactics whilst becoming more comfortable within a different operating environment. Having successfully completed operations in Afghanistan, our focus is turning to re-discover how to train for a contested environment with credible EW threats, thus, demanding that we once again look closely at these tactics.

Once the foundations for the exercise were built, word spread and we found more and more agencies wanting to take part. Useful scenarios were worked up for each of the participants throughout the week, before joining together for a highly coordinated strike mission on the final day. Units included the USAF 321st Squadron who would complete a High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) parachute insert onto the Target Area; USAF F15s and RAF Typhoons which would conduct strikes prior to H Hr to destroy key Air Defence Assets; C130s to drop follow on forces and HH60 Pedro’s to conduct CASEVAC on Call. Throughout the week JTACs from 1RHA worked with their counterparts from the USAF (including a team that flew in from Illinois specifically to conduct the integrated training) to conduct high and low level ’controls’ and take the opportunity to identify some key lessons for operating collaboratively with Low Level TTPs; those that have been less widely utilised during operations in Afghanistan.

For our part it was a fantastic opportunity to train with other units, discuss the benefits and risks of various tactics we might employ, to further understand TTPs within an contemporary operating environment and to  continue to foster and develop relationships with our US Airborne counterparts. We found that the adage ‘time spent on recce is seldom wasted’ remains as pertinent today as ever. The conceptual discussions during the exercise development phase, to understand each others TTPs, deconfliction measures, on target techniques and communication procedures ensured excellent momentum throughout the scenarios.

Overall, the Sqn was afforded an opportunity to become fully immersed in a dynamic, demanding scenario. The cross unit relationships facilitated an impressive array of assets which significantly increased the training benefit gained from a Sqn Level exercise. Subsequently, the Sqn has conducted similar activities with 45 Commando and is developing future serials to build on the relationships with 2 and 3 PARA. The corporate knowledge gained and the understanding of TTPs which may be employed in a ‘contingency environment’ can only serve to improve our ability to contribute as part of a Highly Agile Force.

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