The RAF Air Mobility Force have participated in Orion 2023, a major French Joint Forces Command exercise aimed at reinforcing operational readiness and involving 12,000 troops.
An Atlas C1 flew two sorties to insert a company of 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles and their equipment to integrate with the French Marine 8th Parachute Regiment (8th RPIMa) for a tactical, combined arms exercise. Over 100 soldiers were flown with their supporting equipment from Toulouse to Castres where a rapid engine running offload saw the aircraft disgorge the troops within 90 seconds. In parallel, Atlas aircraft from the Armée de l'air et de l'espace flew in French forces.
Subsequently a 47 Squadron Hercules (C-130J) flew a long range sortie to the south of France, dropping quad bikes and trailers to 16 Air Assault Brigade troops on the ground. The aircraft returned directly to the UK without landing, a round trip of over 1000nm.
First run in 2021, Orion 23 is a major exercise for France’s armed forces and provides the perfect opportunity for multinational, combined arms training in a scenario developed by NATO that exercises all the way from planning to high end war fighting. Planned to be realistic and testing, the exercise spans across different geographical terrains, as well as different domains (space, cyber, information). Orion 23 will equally assess the cross-governmental response to crises, outside the sphere of operation for the Armed Forces.
Tasks such as this provide the Atlas Force with invaluable exposure to operating in Combined Joint environments and we are proud to have played our part. We are delighted to once again operate alongside our European partners, and also to be able to demonstrate our ability to support 16 Air Assault Brigade in the air land role.
Wing Commander Patton
Officer Commanding 30 Squadron
The exercise is the latest to showcase how the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) would operate. The Anglo-French military force draws upon the Armed Forces of both nations to rapidly field a deployable force able to conduct and sustain offensive and defensive operations on land, in the air, and at sea.