UK — Army and RAF step up training for close quarters combat

Two new train­ing facil­i­ties have opened this week as oper­a­tions in Afghanistan draw down, and the Army and the RAF Reg­i­ment are prepar­ing for pos­si­ble future oper­a­tions and the need for urban war­fare skills.

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Army instruc­tors learn new Close Quar­ters Bat­tle skills at Cope­hill Down on Sal­is­bury Plain [Pic­ture: Sergeant Russ Nolan, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
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Sol­diers are relearn­ing their urban war­fare skills in a new course launched this week at Cope­hill Down, Sal­is­bury Plain, while a new­ly built RAF train­ing facil­i­ty for recruits at RAF Hal­ton has been offi­cial­ly opened, tried and test­ed by the RAF’s Assis­tant Chief of Staff (ACOS) for Train­ing, Air Com­modore Rus­sell La Forte.

Army Urban Oper­a­tors Instruc­tors Course, Cope­hill Down

The new Urban Oper­a­tors Instruc­tors Course at Cope­hill Down will train close to 100 mil­i­tary instruc­tors a year across all arms. The instruc­tors can then go back to their units and teach the tac­tics at pla­toon and sec­tion lev­el. Designed specif­i­cal­ly for sol­diers who are already instruc­tors, the course is the first of its kind to give a for­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Field Train­ing Unit offi­cer Major Mark Sud­d­a­by, of the Roy­al Reg­i­ment of Scot­land, explained:

“As we move beyond Oper­a­tion HERRICK, as we are going to be doing in the next cou­ple of years, and start mov­ing back to con­tin­gency oper­a­tions where forces are wait­ing to be used as required rather than ded­i­cat­ed to a spe­cif­ic mis­sion in Afghanistan or Iraq, we need to start con­sid­er­ing how we could be employed over the next decade and train towards that.

“We’ve nev­er lost our urban skills, but it seemed a good idea to bring its train­ing to the fore,” he said.

“We’ve run cours­es like this in the past for some time but what makes this dif­fer­ent is that it is an all arms course, and I am a firm believ­er that urban war­fare is an all arms skill, and that the course also offers a qual­i­fi­ca­tion at the end of it.

“We pro­vide stu­dents with all the infor­ma­tion they need, and then we train them in the sec­ond week how to teach that them­selves, so when we qual­i­fy them they can take that knowl­edge back to their units to instruct their sol­diers. That way we are able to train sol­diers expo­nen­tial­ly in urban oper­a­tions in far greater num­bers than we can teach here.”

For the sol­diers more versed in Afghanistan-spe­cif­ic fight­ing, the course rein­tro­duces the haz­ards of oper­at­ing in a con­ven­tion­al urban envi­ron­ment where build­ings have mul­ti­ple floors and rooms are con­fig­ured dif­fer­ent­ly.

“My expe­ri­ence is from Afghanistan, which is dif­fer­ent when it comes to things like room clear­ance in com­pounds where nor­mal­ly there is only one lev­el to the build­ings,” said Lance Cor­po­ral Keil Apple­ton of 59 Com­man­do Squadron, Roy­al Engi­neers. “So, it’s been good to prac­tise things we haven’t done since train­ing and go back to basics.

“The Low Lev­el Urban Skills Train­er (LLUST) pack­age on the course has also been real­ly use­ful as you get to go through every­thing after­wards, and it shows you if you are going wrong, and where you are going wrong.”

There are cur­rent­ly only two LLUST sys­tems in the UK at the moment: one at Cat­t­er­ick and one at Cope­hill Down in Wilt­shire. The elec­tron­ic sys­tem mon­i­tors the sol­diers as they go through a train­ing drill in a build­ing siege, which is then dig­i­tal­ly dis­played in an audi­to­ri­um to talk though the devel­op­ment points.

The course is two weeks long and will run twice a year.

Close Quar­ters Bat­tle Lanes, RAF Hal­ton

Mean­while in Buck­ing­hamshire, Air Cdre La Forte last week opened four new Close Quar­ters Bat­tle (CQB) Lanes at the RAF’s Recruit Train­ing Squadron (RTS) at RAF Hal­ton.

The lanes are spe­cial­ly designed for recruits dur­ing their Ini­tial Force Pro­tec­tion Train­ing (IFPT) phase and are an improve­ment from the pre­vi­ous facil­i­ty, which could only train a lim­it­ed num­ber of recruits at any one time.

The recruits are put through their paces as they have to tac­ti­cal­ly manoeu­vre around obsta­cles, blank fir­ing their weapons at a tar­get. The lanes also test the recruits phys­i­cal­ly as they fire their weapons from a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent posi­tions such as stand­ing, kneel­ing and prone (lying on one’s front).

Air­craft­man Smith, who is wait­ing to start his trade train­ing course to be a logis­ti­cian, said:

“The lanes are real­ly excit­ing. It is great to get out­side to prac­tise our skills.”

After a quick demon­stra­tion by recruits, Air Cdre La Forte, who is a RAF Reg­i­ment Offi­cer, test­ed the new facil­i­ty for him­self. He said:

“I am delight­ed to be able to open the new CQB lanes at RAF Hal­ton. Pro­fi­cien­cy in small arms is axiomat­ic to any mil­i­tary organ­i­sa­tion as the most fun­da­men­tal of skills.

“As the nature of mod­ern oper­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown, all mem­bers of the RAF have to be ful­ly pre­pared as war-fight­ers first and fore­most, irre­spec­tive of their spe­cif­ic branch or trade, and this new facil­i­ty will play an impor­tant role in instill­ing this war-fight­er spir­it in our new recruits at the very out­set of their career.”

Halton’s nine-week Basic Recruit Course pro­vides RAF recruits with a sol­id foun­da­tion in the basic atti­tudes, knowl­edge and skills in order to meet the rigours and demands of the mod­ern RAF. IFPT, which is run by the RAF Reg­i­ment, runs for approx­i­mate­ly four weeks and teach­es the recruits basic sol­dier­ing skills such as weapon han­dling and first aid.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK