RAF Reserves combine for major UK exercise

RAF reservists from squadrons across the coun­try have tak­en part in a major exer­cise on Sal­is­bury Plain.

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RAF Mer­lins on Sal­is­bury Plain dur­ing Exer­cise Chiltern Kite [Pic­ture: Squadron Leader Dylan Eklund, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Exer­cise Chiltern Kite, which ran between 13–15 April, was one of the largest Roy­al Aux­il­iary Air Force (RAux­AF) exer­cis­es in recent years.

“We’ve brought togeth­er more than half of the squadrons from across the UK to par­tic­i­pate in a demon­stra­tion of our con­tin­gent capa­bil­i­ty,” said Squadron Leader Gary Lane, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing 606 (Chiltern) Squadron.

“Whilst it’s recog­nised that these Reserves will not deploy togeth­er as a force, the real­ism of the sce­nario here has repli­cat­ed the mobil­i­sa­tion expe­ri­ences they under­go when they are indi­vid­ual aug­mentees.”

War­rant Offi­cer Bill Bai­ley RAux­AF, Com­mand War­rant Offi­cer (Reserves), added:

“We have lots of squadrons with dif­fer­ent exper­tise, and by bring­ing them togeth­er we are able to repli­cate what they will expe­ri­ence on oper­a­tions.”

With­in hours of arrival of the lead force ele­ments, a large for­ward oper­at­ing base was estab­lished in a fic­ti­tious over­seas state. Out beyond the wire, RAF Reg­i­ment gun­ners drawn from four squadrons oper­at­ed as one to pro­vide secu­ri­ty for the main force, which includ­ed a num­ber of reg­u­lar RAF units.

“Chiltern Kite would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the sup­port of the Puma and Mer­lins of RAF Ben­son, the fuelling assets from Tac­ti­cal Sup­port Wing and 1 Police Squadron who have con­duct­ed trade train­ing in the field for reserve police­men,” said Sqn Ldr Lane.

For heli­copter crews the oppor­tu­ni­ty to prac­tice mis­sions used on oper­a­tions to gain and retain cur­ren­cy in a vari­ety of tech­niques was eager­ly tak­en. This includ­ed tac­ti­cal fly­ing, car­ry­ing under­slung loads and mov­ing troops.

One of the largest con­tin­gents came from 4626 Aeromed­ical Evac­u­a­tion Squadron based at RAF Lyne­ham whose 50 per­son­nel includ­ed a Doc­tor, nurs­es, para­medics and phys­io­ther­a­pist worked in a tent­ed Aeromed­ical Sup­port Unit.

“This is essen­tial­ly a deployed A+E [Acci­dent and Emer­gency] capa­bil­i­ty,” said Wing Com­man­der Col­in Math­ieson. “The train­ing we’re get­ting is basi­cal­ly test­ing the train­ing we’ve done this year through a series of med­ical sce­nar­ios. We also have four per­son­nel deployed with the RAF Reg­i­ment in the bat­tle­field medic role.”

And the sce­nario was intense:

“The amount of train­ing injects here in 48 hours the equiv­a­lent to a week at Bas­tion,” con­tin­ued Wg Cdr Math­ieson. “But it’s not just the clin­i­cal train­ing; it’s using the clin­i­cal skills they’ve already got in a field sce­nario.”

In a near­by build­ing air move­ments per­son­nel from 4624 (Coun­ty of Oxford) Squadron, based at RAF Brize Nor­ton, made prepa­ra­tions for the poten­tial evac­u­a­tion of ex-patri­ots and embassy staff via a pas­sen­ger hand­ing facil­i­ty.

“The ben­e­fit for us is to work on an for­ward oper­at­ing base at short notice and to live in a field envi­ron­ment,” said WO Matt Dil­lon.

“We are used to work­ing in large main oper­at­ing bases such as Camp Bas­tion and being here in very basic con­di­tions means we have to impro­vise and think on our feet.”

Based at RAF Hen­low, 3 Police Squadron work close­ly on oper­a­tions with their reg­u­lar coun­ter­parts at 1 Police Squadron:

“The exer­cise has been a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty for our police trainees to under­take their final envi­ron­men­tal train­ing in the field,” said Sqn Ldr Bev Peart, Chief of Staff 3 Police Wing (3 PW).

“We usu­al­ly do this on the air­field at RAF Hen­low so to get out into the field in a real­is­tic sce­nario with many oth­er units and capa­bil­i­ties can only enhance the train­ing we deliv­er. We’re used this on 3 PW as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­duct col­lec­tive train­ing with both squadrons, Reg­u­lar and Reserve, to fur­ther forge inte­gra­tion.”

With the exer­cise over, the RAux­AF units returned to their RAF Sta­tions; per­son­nel ready to return to work on Mon­day morn­ing and answer the inevitable ques­tion from col­leagues: “Do any­thing inter­est­ing at the week­end?”

Mem­bers of the RAux­AF under­take key func­tions in sup­port of oper­a­tions such as intel­li­gence, a wide vari­ety of med­ical roles, logis­tics, media oper­a­tions and force pro­tec­tion. There are twen­ty squadrons of the RAux­AF, com­pris­ing some 1,300 per­son­nel. These reserves oper­ate along­side reg­u­lar RAF per­son­nel, both in the UK and when deployed on oper­a­tions and are a vital part of the front line RAF.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK