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GALLERY: Army comes to RAF Wittering for Exercise Swift Pirate

Heavy aircraft returned to the skies above RAF Wittering this week as the Station hosted Gurkhas and 16 Air Assault Brigade for Exercise Swift Pirate.

A British Army unit, 16 Air Assault Brigade is specially trained and equipped to deploy by parachute, helicopter and air-landing. 

Its core role is to maintain the Air Assault Task Force, a battlegroup held at high readiness to deploy worldwide for the full spectrum of missions.

Exercise Swift Pirate is a regular feature in the Station’s busy calendar, and the heavy aircraft of the RAF Mobility Force are a familiar sight in the skies around RAF Wittering. The RAF maintains the ability to move people and equipment around the globe in support of operations with its A400M Atlas, C17 Globemaster and C130 Hercules aircraft.

No 1 Air Mobility Wing (1AMW) specialises in aircraft handling, passenger and cargo handling and the safe loading and unloading of military transport aircraft. During Exercise Swift Pirate, 1AMW puts its personnel to the test and keeps those vital skills up to scratch. 1AMW is based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire but is part of the RAF A4 Force, which is has its headquarters at RAF Wittering.

This week 16 Air Assault Brigade and the RAF Mobility Force have been training together at RAF Wittering, where the Station has doubled as a primitive airfield in a foreign country. Careful and meticulous planning has been key to meeting the exercise objectives whilst keeping personnel safe and as Covid-secure as possible.

Group Captain Jo Lincoln is the Station Commander at RAF Wittering and Commander of the A4 Force Elements.

She said: “It’s all about the training, making sure that we are ready to deploy anywhere in the world, whenever we are needed. Working together, 1AMW and 16 Air Assault Brigade produce a powerful military effect and we’re very happy to have them both here.”

But the exercise is far more than just the movement of passengers and equipment. During Swift Pirate 1AMW personnel live as though they were on an operation, they practise their core military skills, are accommodated in basic conditions and regularly exposed to simulated threats from hostile forces.

Swift Pirate is the first exercise for SAC Joseph Tuitoga (24) from 1AMW. Over the past few days he has been loading and unloading aircraft, processing passengers, handling freight and taken on sentry duties.

He said: “It’s my first exercise so I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s been quite challenging at times, but it’s designed to stretch you so that in a real-life situation you know how to handle it.”

Group Captain Lincoln concluded: “This exercise is a real test for the Station and for 1AMW, and we’ve been fortunate to have the participation of 16 Air Assault Brigade. I’m very happy to say that it’s been a complete success and shown yet again just what a valuable asset our airfield is to Defence."





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