Military chiefs view exercise in Suffolk

MILITARY chiefs witnessed a dramatic military exercise in Suffolk showpiecing the UK's military muscle.The Chiefs of defence staff from the 19 countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisations (NATO) Military Committee visited Wattisham Airfield near Stowmarket, to see how the British Army and UK forces are able to rapidly deploy on operations overseas.

MILITARY chiefs witnessed a dramatic military exercise in Suffolk showpiecing the UK's military muscle.

The Chiefs of defence staff from the 19 countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisations (NATO) Military Committee visited Wattisham Airfield near Stowmarket, to see how the British Army and UK forces are able to rapidly deploy on operations overseas.

The NATO guests watched a capability demonstration conducted mostly by 16 Air Assault Brigade, supported by RAF flying squadrons and other army units. The Nato Military Committee learned more about the important role of the UK's rapid reaction and deployable forces and saw equipment used recently on operations, and that will be used on future operations.

The battle scenario saw low level bombing runs, fast jets softening up the enemy airfield and an Apache attack helicopter sweeping in, plus military muscle including a giant Hercules plane, soldiers and land vehicles racing across the airfield for an assault on enemy positions.


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The scenarios, which included explosions and the crack of arms fire, featured the state of Essex- a new democracy in the Middle East - which has enjoyed good relations with the UK and NATO nations since the late 1960's, enough to deter military action by Saxonia, a neighbour with claims to northern Essex.

In response to Saxonian preparations for invasion, the British government ordered UK forces to deploy in support of Essex. These forces were a naval taskforce, an air component comprising Jaguar and Tornado aircraft, and land forces from 16 Air Assault Brigade.

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Despite the UK deployment, the situation continued to deteriorate and in response to intelligence assessments of an imminent Saxonian invasion, the UK Force Commander was ordered to conduct military operations against an airfield.

Capt Steve Vaid, of 16 Air Assault Brigade based at Colchester, said: "It's a sunny day with no enemy. In reality it would be night time in stinking weather, but we have to set these things up.

"The boys love showing off, they love this, this is what they do for a living.

"Their knowledge is so vast and deep and they take a real pride in their skills."

Two hundred troops took part in the demonstration, including soldiers from Wattisham and Colchester, many of whom had been in the Gulf.

Capt Vaid added: "This is a big day for the brigade and the UK PLC. This is a high powered NATO arena, and they have come to see how we do business.

We are the biggest brigade, the most flexible, and can deploy anywhere in the world."

General Harald Kujat, chairman of the Military Committee, said: "I am very impressed with what we have seen here today. This is the force of the 21st century."

After the military show, top brass had the chance to visit static displays from the Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defence Regiment from RAF Honington, the PathFinder Platoon and Lynx and Gazelle helicopter crews.

NATO's Military Committee is the senior military authority in NATO, providing military guidance to Nato's strategic commanders.

The NATO Military Committee is visiting Wattisham as part of a two day tour of the UK, followed by a two day visit to France. Prior to the display at Wattisham, the Committee held a one day conference in Cambridge.

The chiefs of defence staff from the seven countries hoping to join NATO in the near future, over one hundred officers from the NATO headquarters in Brussels, and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic were also invited.

Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, Brigadier Jacko Page, said: "We are honoured to be receiving such important guests and are delighted to have the opportunity to demonstrate to the NATO Military Committee that the UK's forces, including 16 Air Assault Brigade, are versatile, light and capable of rapid deployment across a wide spectrum of conflict.

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