Coalition training organised by 904 Expeditionary Air Wing

Instructors from Australia, Denmark, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Denmark as well as the UK came together on a bright Saturday afternoon on the ranges at Kandahar Airfield. They provided one-on-one coaching in how to safely handle and shoot issue weapons from their respective countries. RAF Regiment Sgt Wayne Hopewell, who organised the event said: “Over 200 people from many nations serving at Kandahar have come through today. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us all. It makes the international partnership come alive. If something were to happen to one of our coalition colleagues, we would be able to safely take control of their weapon.”

In the words of the Garrison Sergeant Major at 904 Expeditionary Air Wing, Warrant Officer Steve Whitlock: “It’s a good experience; people who have never had a chance can now practice on other rifles and pistols. Yes it is fun – and that’s what good training should be – but there’s a direct link between today’s shoot and the ability of our people working side-by-side with coalition partners to render weapons safe when necessary.”

All trades and ranks were seen at the ranges. And all services. Royal Navy and Army cap badges form an integral part of the 904 EAW team. There were pilots with the famous 617 “Dambusters” Squadron badge on their sleeve. They would usually carry a 9mm pistol whilst on operations in their Tornado GR4 aircraft providing intelligence and support for Afghan-led ground troops. However, in an incident on the ground they are alongside other nations and other weapons. Also on the range were those who provide the administration essential to keep an air wing ticking over efficiently whether providing ground support air cover, tactical air transport or surveillance capability.

Just after finishing a shoot, RAF Cpl Andy Coombes, from RAF Waddington, who manages accommodation at Kandahar said: “It’s been a very interesting afternoon. It’s very rare that I get the chance of ‘hands-on’ other weapons. It is on operations that we have the chance to train with other nations. It gives you a feel for how your ‘kit’ compares with others. I prefer the UK’s L85A2 rifle – perhaps it’s just familiarity – although I like the American M4 which does seem very light.”

Weapons demonstrated included the familiar profile of the US M4 carbine, and its Danish issue cousin with a ruggedized telescopic sight. Also in use was the distinctive F88 AusSteyr assault rifle used by the Australian forces – recognisable by the swept back 1.5x telescopic sight-cum-carrying handle and its desert colour. Less recognisable to many was the 7.62 mm Slovak issue vz. 58 made by the long established Czech manufacturer CZ Brno. Superficially it resembles the AK 47 favoured by insurgents, but has a quite different mechanism; it reinforced the need for the awareness made possible on this training day.


Editor: Flt Lt Rennie

Photograph: Sgt Pugsley

Sergeant Wayne Hopewell, RAF Regiment, organized a multinational range day at Kandahar Airfield, for ISAF and other members of the coalition and afforded the opportunity to fire other nations weapon systems.

RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2014