Royal Air Force personnel and aircraft are participating in a major NATO exercise in North Macedonia, known as Exercise Swift Response.
This is an annual multinational exercise that this year covers 8 countries in 3 regions: the Arctic, the Balkans, and the Baltic region. The exercise involves about 9,000 members of the armed forces from 17 NATO and partner nations. The RAF contribution focussed on North Macedonia, where they have been training with forces from North Macedonia, USA, Italy, France, Montenegro, Albania and Greece.
The exercise commenced with a High-Altitude Low Opening parachute jump from a C-17 Globemaster by Army Pathfinders. This was the first ever long-range, high-altitude parachute insertion by a UK C-17.
This team of reconnaissance experts took off from RAF Brize Norton and then jumped at an altitude of 18,000ft over the Krivolak training area in North Macedonia. Once on the ground they secured a foothold in the rugged landscape.
Later that day, once the Pathfinders had secured the drop zone, 180 British soldiers then parachuted in from an RAF C-130J Hercules along with 400 Italian paratroopers. Simultaneously RAF Chinooks delivered more troops and Light Guns for the Parachute Regiment.
The Hercules remained in North Macedonia and conducted multiple low-level parachute drops of paratroopers into the exercise area. They also dropped parachutes of heavy equipment, including quad bikes, water and rations to support the troops on the ground.
Among the RAF personnel on the ground were a team of RAF Regiment Reservists from 606 Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron who were responsible for the Force Protection of the deployed RAF aircraft.
As the exercise evolved, the allied forces were required to defend their positions and attack the enemy. These operations were supported by Typhoon jets who flew from their deployed location in Romania. The fighter jets communicated with the land elements in the exercise to suppress the enemy forces.
The exercise was designed to develop capabilities and relationships in the region, whilst demonstrating NATO’s ability to respond rapidly to international crises.
The manoeuvres in North Macedonia are one element of a wider exercise, with four multinational forces under the direction of US Army Europe and Africa conducting simultaneous training for airborne operations across Europe – from the High North to the Caucasus.