Exercise Joint Warrior
Even this icy blast of autumnal rain can’t stop Royal Navy aircraft handlers from preparing their helicopter to hunt down the enemy as part of a huge exercise off the coast of Scotland.
The Merlin helicopter from 829 Naval Air Squadron based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, is one of 40 aircraft taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior – the largest multi-national exercise in Europe – from this week. Looming behind HMS St Albans and her aircraft is the USS Mittscher, a US Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, which is one of 27 naval vessels taking part –six of which are from the UK. The Helston Air Station has also sent another Merlin helicopter to HMS Kent which is also taking part in this exercise.
Other nations include Belgium, Germany, Holland, France, Denmark and Estonia who all jumped at the chance to practise skills such as counter-piracy, narcotics and insurgency operations – all covered by the task force.
“The exercise is designed to test the collective skill, knowledge and equipment of the participants in a range of different environments” said Captain Phillip Titterton, of the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) who co-ordinate Joint Warrior.
“By training in this fashion, we are able to prepare for a whole range of potential and ultimately realistic tactical scenarios, from out-and-out warfare to rescuing hostages captured by pirates.”
The Merlin helicopter, while primarily a submarine-hunter, will be used to track warships playing the enemy – identifying them and relaying that information back to the task groups. It is also on permanent stand-by should any emergency arise in that coastal area.
Held twice a year, Joint Warrior aims to practise the skills needed to create a military force capable of being deployed to worldwide incidents such as Libya last year.
It also helps improve the working relationship between the British Armed Forces, NATO and coalition counterparts by allowing them to work together in a simulated and controlled operational environment.
Captain Nelson Castro, the Commander of the United States Navy’s Destroyer Squadron 26, said: "Many of the Allied units involved in Joint Warrior exercises will be the same units our ships will see on deployment. This familiarity allows for the development of trust as you know almost exactly how the Allied unit will respond during combat operations."