RAF: Air Assault Training

Royal Air Force units and personnel have established a temporary airfield to provide support to the British Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade on exercise Joint Warrior.

Situated on the west coast of Scotland, the small airfield at West Freugh is now a fully operational military base and temporary home to a fleet of RAF and Army Air Corps helicopters.

The task of establishing an operational military airfield at an austere location falls in part to a two-man team from Tactical Air Traffic Control based at RAF Brize Norton. They play a vital role in deployed operations as Flight Lieutenant Craig Sweenie explained:

„We’re part of the first group in. We do a recce and establish a temporary landing zone before then establishing airfield procedures to safeguard all aircraft. We can set up the airfield in about an hour, the full air traffic service in a couple of days.

A RAF Close Support Tanker refuels a Hercules C4 tactical air transport aircraft at West Freugh on Ex Joint Warrior.

„As the deployed Air Traffic Service we activated West Freugh as a temporary airfield. We provide deconfliction and coordination for a large force of helicopters and C130s, as well as all ground personnel. We also bring with us RAF firemen who can provide the requisite fire cover to enable safe conduct of the exercise.”

Ahead of the arrival of the aircraft the RAF Tactical Supply Wing set up a Forward Arming and Refueling Point. A fleet of close support tankers enabled aircraft to be refuelled quickly with rotors and engines running.

On the exercise the RAF Hercules fleet has taken the opportunity to practise rapid air land integration training with the Army. Pilot Flt Lt Dan Jeffery said:

„We don’t work with the Army very often so we really take advantage of these exercises so that we can build up our integration with them and get to learn their standard operating procedures, and let them get to learn our. This makes the entire thing a lot more seamless.”

A trio of Puma II helicopters with rotors running at West Freugh, Scotland.

The rapid egress of paratroopers loaded with weapons, ammunition and bergens, their vehicles and equipment from the large transport aircraft is highly skilled. With the assistance of movements personnel 40 paratroopers and a Land Rover can be offloaded in 45 seconds enabling the Hercules to take-off from a hostile environment in short order.

Asked to comment on the key to a successful offload Flt Lt Jeffery said:

Flt Lt Craig Sweenie, a member of a two-man Tactical Air Traffic Control unit who established a tempoary airfield at West Freugh, Scotland on Exercise JOINT WARRIOR”It’s all about the briefing stage and good communication between the Air Loadmasters and the troop commanders down the back so that everyone is aware of the brief, where the dangers areas are on the aircraft and the safe points of exit so that they egress not only rapidly but safely.

Exercise Joint Warrior involves 13,000 military personnel from all three services and NATO partner countries. Joint training allows Army and RAF to practice working together and ensures the UK is able to mount deployed operations anywhere in the world.

16 Air Assault Brigade is the Army’s rapid response airborne formation and is the only Operational Brigade in the British Army capable of delivering Air Manoeuvre, Air Assault and Airborne operations.

Source / Author: RAF

Editor: Sqn Ldr Dylan Eklund

Photograph: RAF

RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2014