Monday 29th November 2021
Medical personnel, engineers and logistics specialists have arrived at RAF Wittering for Exercise Agile Pirate, the first major collective exercise for the RAF Support Force.
The RAF Support Force brings together most of the capabilities and skills needed to sustain modern air operations and exercises; specialist engineering and logistics, advanced military communications and tactical medical services.
Full operating capability was achieved earlier this year, and Agile Pirate is the first collective training opportunity for the Support Force. In the exercise scenario, RAF Wittering doubles as an austere airfield in a foreign country, with the Support Force deployed to provide the essential services on the ground to enable air operations.
Air Commodore Neil Grant commands the RAF Support Force. He said: “We’re a high-readiness organisation, so we have to be prepared to deploy within days, and sometimes within hours. Therefore, our engineers, logistics personnel and medics need to be trained and experienced – that’s what Agile Pirate is all about.”
With its long runway and wide taxiways, RAF Wittering’s spacious airfield is useful for loading and unloading wide-bodied aircraft. But there was also intense activity away from the airfield. Whilst the personnel from No 1 Air Mobility Wing practised the loading and unloading the C-17 aircraft from RAF Brize Norton, Support Force Medics from Tactical Medical Wing had set up a working medical facility.
Flight Lieutenant James Boyd is an RAF Medical Support Officer from Tactical Medical Wing. He said: “This is valuable training because we’re working with all the other units; communications, engineering, logistics, in the same way that we would if the RAF was operating abroad. So everything that you see here is like a realistic approximation of what we’d be expected to deal with in the real world.”
Agile Pirate is also an opportunity for RAF Reservists to train alongside their Regular counterparts. Reserve Logistics Support Wing is based at Wittering and manages three reserve logistics squadrons, including No 605 Squadron, which has an RAF Police Flight.
Flight Lieutenant Chris Halliwell is an RAF Reserve Police Officer with 605 Squadron at RAF Cosford. He said: “On a real operation the RAF Police would be doing force protection, making sure the camp is secure inside and out and that our people and equipment are safe. As a reservist I need to be able to do this whenever I’m needed so this training is an absolute must for me.”
After three days of concentrated training, Exercise Agile Pirate came to an end having met all its training objectives. The next phase of Agile Pirate will be conducted on the remote Scottish island of Stornoway, where the RAF Support Force will enable the operation of Typhoon jets.
Air Commodore Grant concluded: “Our business is enabling the deployment of UK Air and Space Power, wherever and whenever it is needed. Exercises like Agile Pirate allow us to refine our output and demonstrate that we’re ready.”