EXERCISE FORLORN HOPE
July 2015 saw personnel and assets from across the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army and Royal Air Force convene at RNAS Yeovilton for Exercise FORLORN HOPE to practise Joint Personnel Recovery in preparation for contingent operations as part of the UK Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) and Lead Commando Group (LCG).
Counter Insurgency (COIN) style campaigns of recent years have led to a reliance on Allied/Coalition Joint Personnel Recovery (JPR) structures in the Land environment, so the Aim of Ex FORLORN HOPE was to conduct JPR Tactical Development at RNAS Yeovilton, in order to enhance recent JPR training conducted on Ex JOINT WARRIOR earlier in the year, in support of UK JEF and LCG operations, as a secondary skill set using existing resources, in line with draft UK policy.
With the Commando Helicopter Force leading, Exercise FORLORN HOPE increased the knowledge and understanding whilst serving as an introduction to JPR for the Ground Extraction Force (GEF) personnel from 42 Cdo RM.
The exercise was designed to explore how existing and emerging capabilities, such as the Merlin and Wildcat can integrate with 3 Cdo Bde RM and Joint Helicopter Command assets to exercise Combat Recovery serials in both the Maritime and Littoral environments. With the move away from operations in Afghanistan, the JEF will find itself deploying around the globe in support of UK Defence interests, and should be ready to assure those who operate as part of it that British Forces are trained and capable of undertaking personnel recovery should unforeseen events occur.
FORLORN HOPE was orchestrated from the Commando Helicopter Force Headquarters using a number of assets including; Merlin Mk3's from 846 NAS and 28 Sqn RAF, a Wildcat AH1 from 847 NAS, an Apache from 664 Sqn AAC, a SKASaC from 849 NAS and a Wildcat HMA Mk2 from 825 NAS, alongside a Ground Extraction Force from 42 Cdo RM, Forward Air Controllers (Airborne) (FAC(A)) from 847 NAS, Isolated Personnel (ISOPERS) from 845 NAS and willing enemy forces from CHF's Combat Support Squadron.
Participants convened at 846 NAS to conduct briefings on Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Combat Recovery Operations as well as aircraft drills and table-top Tactical Development. This culminated in flying and ground serials onDartmoor, simulating the participants being embarked in the JEF in a littoral scenario.
The Wildcat conducted Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance sweeps of the pick-up area onOkehamptonRange, and quickly identified the Enemy Forces closing in on the ISOPERS location. Once the FAC(A)s had called in simulated Close Air Strikes on the enemy the Recovery Package of Merlins, escorted by the Wildcat closed in to the Helicopter Landing Site to pick-up the downed crew.
Whilst on the ground, 42 Cdo were contacted on the Helicopter Landing Site as they tried to authenticate the ISOPERS. The ensuing firefight was coordinated from above by the Ground Extraction Force Commander and the FAC(A)s, using the pre-briefed Battlefield Management plan and through a combination of ‘bootie’ fighting spirit and airborne fires the enemy was soon dispatched. With the enemy beaten and the aircrew secured, it was time to head back to the 'floating' callsign of 'HMS Yeovilton'.
This was the second year that the Commando Helicopter Force have run Ex FORLORN HOPE, building on the success of the 2014 exercise, it proved that with determination and practice, personnel and capabilities that often function in relative isolation can be brought together to achieve a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
It's a big call to place more people in harms way to recover others which is why Joint Personnel Recovery involves a healthy-degree of risk management. The reason behind exercises such as FORLORN HOPE is that the Commanders will have a capability at their disposal to do so if required. Thus our fighting men and women can do their jobs with one fewer concern; that should it go wrong, there's somebody there to get them back to safety; reassuring for the families too!