swift pirate

Monday 23rd May 2022

Warmer than usual weather added an extra layer of realism for No 1 Air Mobility Wing during Exercise Swift Pirate at RAF Wittering last week.

Exercise Swift Pirate has been running at the Cambridgeshire Station since March 2018, and the heavy aircraft it brings are familiar sights in the skies around RAF Wittering. The Station doubles as a basic airfield in a foreign country so that personnel from No 1 Air Mobility Wing (1AMW) can perfect the skills they’ll need for deployed operations.

In the scenario, 1AMW have deployed to a hot country in the aftermath of an earthquake for a humanitarian aid mission. With temperatures often exceeding 20 degrees, the exercise had a particularly realistic feel about it. A visit from Royal Air Force Chaplain-in-Chief, Air Vice Marshal John Ellis, chimed well with the humanitarian scenario of Exercise Swift Pirate.

Flight Lieutenant Alex Chesters (24) joined the RAF four years ago, and this is his first time on Swift Pirate. He said: “Happily, the exercise has run to plan, literally like it was on rails. The heat has been a challenge, as have the long hours, but this has only added a sense of authenticity to what we’re doing, and our team has risen to the occasion perfectly.”

1AMW specialises in aircraft handling, passenger and cargo handling and the safe loading and unloading of military transport aircraft. 1AMW is based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire but is part of the RAF A4 Force Elements, which is has its headquarters at RAF Wittering.

Ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, the A4 Force Elements are comprised of specialist engineering and logistics squadrons which support military air operations and exercises in the UK and abroad.

During the exercise, 1AMW personnel live in tented accommodation and work as they would on an undeveloped airfield. But it’s not just the living conditions, the team are also trained to deal with simulated attacks from a hostile militia, and how to assist civilians and casualties in need of help.

With its long runway and wide taxiways, RAF Wittering’s spacious airfield can accept UK military aircraft of any size. The Station is an ideal place for training, fieldwork and live aircraft operations. It is also only a short flying distance from RAF Brize Norton, which allows the 1AMW team to work through multiple training activities quite quickly.

Group Captain Nick Huntley is Commanding Officer of the A4 Force Elements, he said: “Exercise Swift Pirate brings several benefits, not least of which is the morale-boosting effect that the arrival of front-line aircraft has on everyone at this Station.  The training payback for 1AMW and our Ops Wing and Air Traffic personnel is massive, and seeing these aircraft operating at Wittering definitely inspires our student pilots and cadets.”

See also: Special day at Coates Primary School

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