Colchester-based Army gunners in gruelling training exercise

Image of a 105mm gun firing smoke at a given co-ordinate. The air assault skills of 7 Parachute Reg

Image of a 105mm gun firing smoke at a given co-ordinate. The air assault skills of 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (7 Para RHA) being tested on Salisbury Plain in Exercise Cypher Strike, a 72-hour mission. - Credit: Corporal Andy Reddy RLC

Airborne gunners based at Colchester Garrison took part in a demanding 72-hour exercise mission this week following a week of build up training.

Exercise Cypher Strike put 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery through its paces as it practised the early stages of an operation, known as theatre entry.

During the mission on Salisbury Plain the gunners fired and moved across the area by day and night.

Two 105mm light guns were put in a forward position to simulate having been dropped by parachute, and the troops then deployed into the field by Chinook helicopter with light guns, off-road Pinzgauer vehicles and ammunition carried underneath.

The gunners then engaged targets identified by their fire support teams, who co-ordinate artillery and close air support, while continuing to change position by helicopter or vehicle.

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It is preparing the gunners for their role providing offensive fire support to 16 Air Assault Brigade, the British Army’s airborne rapid reaction force. In April, F (Sphinx) Parachute Battery takes over from G (Mercer’s Troop) Parachute Battery to serve in the Air Assault Task Force, ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice.

The 350-strong regiment was supported on exercise by the full range of assets that would deploy with it, including specialist observer and air defence high velocity missiles.

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Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Birch, Commanding Officer of 7 Para RHA, said: “Our batteries are busy across the year and Exercise Cypher Strike is our chance to come together and work on our core artillery skills.

“It has been high tempo training to test how we would survive and operate with the minimum of equipment after deploying by air, the specialism that defines our role and character.”

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