Pathfinders, what the British Army call “the tip of the spear”, have parachuted into North Macedonia to be first in for a major multinational exercise.

According to a news release from the Ministry of Defence here, the team of reconnaissance experts took off from RAF Brize Norton today in a C-17 Globemaster, parachuting from 18,000ft using High Altitude Low Opening techniques to discreetly drop into the Krivolak training area.

“On the ground, the Pathfinders’ role on Exercise Swift Response is to scout out enemy positions and mark drop zones for the main body of British, Italian and French paratroopers jumping in a few days later.

Exercise Swift Response sees 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team take command of more than 3,500 soldiers from 8 NATO countries training together in North Macedonia. The Pathfinders were first in this week as they conducted a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jump into the exercise.”

What’s going on?

This is part of efforts undertaken by the UK to deploy 8,000 troops for exercises across Europe.

Britain deploys troops and tanks to Europe to ‘deter Russia’

The exercises will see 8,000 British troops, 72 Challenger 2 tanks, 12 AS90 tracked artillery guns and 120 Warrior armoured fighting vehicles deploy to countries from Finland to North Macedonia.

British Apache helicopters are also in North Macedonia.

British Apache attack helicopters deploy to Macedonia

The move, say the Ministry of Defence, “demonstrates the Army’s modernisation into a lethal, agile and global force”.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was quoted as saying:

“The security of Europe has never been more important. These exercises will see our troops join forces with allies and partners across NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force in a show of solidarity and strength in one of the largest shared deployments since the Cold War. Operating across Europe, the British Army will stand alongside partners, combining our capabilities and shared values, promoting peace and security.”

Commander Field Army Lieutenant General Ralph Wooddisse said:

“The UK makes a significant contribution to the defence of Europe and the deterrence of Russian aggression. The British Army’s series of exercises is fundamental to both. We continue to deploy across Europe, from the Baltic to the Aegean, to train and fight alongside our allies and partners, providing powerful, capable and ready forces to support NATO and show the UK’s commitment to peace and security.

A wide range of units from the Field Army will be involved, from light and airborne forces, to helicopters and armoured forces, supported by artillery, electronic warfare, air defence, surveillance drones, engineers and logisticians. The scale of the deployment, coupled with the professionalism, training and agility of the British Army, will deter aggression at a scale not seen in Europe this century.”

What exercises are planned?

According to the Ministry of Defence here…

  • Troops from B Squadron of the Queen’s Royal Hussars have deployed to Finland this week to take part in Exercise Arrow. They will be embedded into a Finnish Armoured Brigade, with participation from other partners including the US, Latvia and Estonia. The exercise will improve the ability of UK and Finnish troops to work alongside each other as part of the JEF, deterring Russian aggression in Scandinavia and the Baltic states.
  • In May, Exercise Hedgehog will see the Royal Welsh Battlegroup and the Royal Tank Regiment exercising on the Estonia-Latvia border alongside 18,000 NATO troops, including French and Danish, who are part of the British-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence. Hedgehog is the biggest military exercise in Estonia and takes place every four years.
  • Alongside Exercise Hedgehog, Exercise Defender in Poland is ongoing until late May, with 1,000 soldiers from the King’s Royal Hussars Battlegroup and C Squadron of the Light Dragoons deployed alongside troops from 11 partner nations including Poland, Denmark and the United States. This exercise involves Challenger 2 tanks and other armoured vehicles deploying from the NATO Forward Holding Base in Sennelager, Germany. The deployment is supported by 104 Theatre Sustainment Brigade operating from the UK and in bases in Europe.
  • Exercise Swift Response, which also began this week, sees elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team and 1 Aviation Brigade Combat Team operate alongside French, American, Italian, and Albanian counterparts in North Macedonia. There are 4,500 personnel on the exercise including 2,500 British troops. The exercise involves parachute drops, helicopter-borne air assaults and sees a company of French paratroopers integrated into the 2 Parachute Regiment Battlegroup and an Italian battlegroup working to a British chain of command.

The Ministry of Defence added that “these exercises showcase the scale and significance of the British Army’s contribution to the defence of Europe and highlight the continued importance of the leadership role which UK plays as a member of NATO and the JEF.”

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago

Seems an odd way to the use the very few C17’s that we have? A very precius resource for very heavy lift.

I know the A400M is not jump cleared yet.

So this is really a C130J job?

Darren hall
Darren hall
3 days ago

The C-17s role in UK service now includes airdrop, initially it was not authorized during the loan period.
The C-17 can also fly higher, as the Pathfinders are trained for HALO and HAHO, this gives them a better stand off insertion.
I guess the are jumping in daylight for Exercise purposes…

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  Darren hall

Do you mean lease period?

Very interesting point about operational ceiling.

Darren hall
Darren hall
3 days ago

Indeed I did mean Lease…
Will be interesting to see if the Atlas is ever certified for Para…

Been seeing an Atlas and C-17 in trail formation for the past couple of days (North Wiltshire area) amazing how with them in formation it is the Atlas you can hear!

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
3 days ago

The French and Turks do this with A400M. The RAF hasn’t cleared the A400M for jumping yet cause a) they don’t have to, so that b) all the obstacles and excuses that normally can get in the way of obtaining release to service for a capability, have been allowed to get in the way. Ably aided and abetted by the usual suspects of QinetiQ/Boscombe and insufficient funding. If for whatever reason C-130s were grounded tomorrow and C-17 required elsewhere, what would they do? They’d quickly start using A400M. Until then? They don’t have to, do they. Why do today what… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago

Very interesting insight.

Reflects a lack of clarity of thinking in how to conserve resources by actively solving problems.

LongTime
LongTime
3 days ago

Realistically though with c130 slated for the axe, it’s probably best they get used to doing it from a C17, Every aircraft has different turbulence around it as you exit, I’ve noticed it and I only jump for fun with no extra kit on. It amazes me that pathfinders and such units can HALO freefall with full kit on and still be stable.

A400m wise, I was under the impression only the side doors weren’t IOC, i was under the impression the rear ramp was Cleared though.

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
3 days ago
Reply to  LongTime

Yes. Rear ramp jumping has been cleared for some time I believe

Longtime
Longtime
2 days ago

I was hoping your expertise would pop up on this.
I thought I’d read that the ramp was cleared on a RAF press release last year.
Il happily throw myself out the side door for science/fun to get its cert done.

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
2 days ago
Reply to  Longtime

Problem is that having retired, I’m not up to speed any more with the current programme status. I could ask people I know I suppose. Also, countries like France and Turkey are more advanced in the RTS of different capabilities cause for them it’s needs must. Trouble with U.K. is we have an embarrassment of riches with Herc, 17 and 400. So we don’t need to rush our RTSs and it gives those lovely people at Qinetiq and Boscombe more chance to stick their oar in and charge MoD for more OTEs. I’m pretty sure ramp was cleared last year… Read more »

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
3 days ago

They were using C-17 because they were doing HALO stealth insertions, jumping from a very high altitude.

UK hasnt got around to certifying paratroopers for extreme low level drops as we focused on certifying cargo drops and just relying on the Hercules leaving the paratrooper certification activities to France. France did a full certification in 2020 with 116 being deployed simultaneously from all three doors and in parliamentary questions last year the Minister said UK certification was in progress.

Steve
Steve
2 days ago
Reply to  Watcherzero

Kinda odd logic though (not yours, the talking the armed forces), if you want to stealthly get para in, surely the best option is to fly low to avoid radar. I can imagine a special forces drop could be done high to avoid terrorist/insurgents hearing the plane, but for conventional forces, i would think radar would be the main challange your trying to avoid.

Last edited 2 days ago by Steve
LongTime
LongTime
5 seconds ago
Reply to  Steve

HALO is a Freefall jump other than the fact your using a parachute and left a plane, it’s very different style of flying and landing.
So you would only insert SF or other highly specialist small units by HALO. You would insert the main force low level but you would need pathfinders in 1st to locate a “safe” DZ to do so.

John Clark
John Clark
2 days ago
Reply to  Watcherzero

It’s impressive that 6 A400’s could drop an entire Para Battalion, a few more dropping equipment and you have a very impressive capability.

Mr Mark Franks
Mr Mark Franks
3 days ago

When the C17s where first leased and then bought by the RAF. They were initially intended as strategic transports. At the time it was thought a waste of an asset. Now it seems the aircraft is being used as it was designed for as a tactical aircraft. Good to see and would have been nice to have seen a fleet of 12 but hay ho.

George Amery
George Amery
3 days ago

Hi folks hope all is well.
I’m very impressed with all of our military components. The level of activity appears to be on the increase, many deployments going on. Apart from the US, how many other nations are deployed in the same way? You experts on here please advise.
Cheers
George

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 days ago
Reply to  George Amery

I would guess none, or may be the French? Which is why, despite the endless moans about numbers, our mikitsru is relevant, professional, experienced, and useful.

No use having lots of numbers sitting looking shiny. Our military can fight.

It’s just constantly overstretched as HMG, as a major medium power, get involved in events as befits our P5 G7 status.

Which I support. The accompanying cuts I do not.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 days ago

And it’s great having such a mikitsru! 🙄😆

grizzler
grizzler
3 days ago

I thought that was an obscure technical term for a moment , then had a look at my keyboard😄

Airborne
Airborne
3 days ago

Are we talking Polish Military here mate? ,0)

Dern
Dern
2 days ago

I’d argue Russia and Ukraine both are gaining a lot of experience deploying large numbers of troops….

dave12
dave12
2 days ago
Reply to  Dern

I dont think the Russians are learning anything from this war they just lost a battalion trying to cross a river , to many yes men in the chain of command , and to much believing its own propaganda.

Dern
Dern
2 days ago
Reply to  dave12

The question wasn’t “What are people learning” but “How many nations are deployed in the same way?”
Russia has shown it’s more than capable of deploying large Airborne formations.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
2 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Didnt the Russians lose an air transport at the start of the Ukraine war with 70+ troops onboard?
A C17 is a big target even at 18000 feet. I wouldnt want to be on one going into contested airspace.
The days of paratroop drops during a war are i think long gone.
Small group deployments and pre war rapid reinforcement withstanding i think large military transports being risked over a war zone is a bad idea.

Dern
Dern
1 day ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Again not the point I, nor the OP was making.

And as much as I dislike Paras, @ Airborne might be able to testify, I don’t think their role is entirely gone. They are vulenerable, but amateur OSINT analaysis can not, and should not, form the basis for a determination on if the time of a certain techonlogy or operational doctrine is “long gone”
this is true of Armour, and it’s true of Airborne insertions.

Airborne
Airborne
2 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Mate off topic I know, but after a few rums, just watched forces news, part of the theatre troops on the ongoing deployment to Europe is the “additive manufacturing platoon” 3D printing platoon! Right, that’s it I’m officially out of the loop and old! 😂

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Mate, what reg are they ? RLC?

Airborne
Airborne
2 days ago

REME as part of the TEG in Europe.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Ta.

Dern
Dern
1 day ago
Reply to  Airborne

I know it’s been in discussion for a while, but was unaware that it was a capabaility that had been actually deployed. 100% sensible IMO, simplifies logisitics no end.

Would be interested in your opinions on Mr Bell’s comments above.

Airborne
Airborne
1 day ago
Reply to  Dern

To a degree he is correct however we need to maintain the ability to drop at least a Coy group, closely followed by the remaining lads if needed. We can never predict the future, and when we try we are invariably wrong! Like the tank, capabilities need to change with the times but we should never get rid of a capability mate, as you know, we will never get it back, cheers.

DRS
DRS
3 days ago
Reply to  George Amery

When you follow the link lot more pictures including insertion at dusk, including this for deployment – busy time:

mod-deployments.png
Airborne
Airborne
3 days ago
Reply to  George Amery

I would agree with Daniele, the French did have a high level of operational tempo a few years ago and are decent lads up for a fight. The Danish lads and Estonians, also were up for a deployment or two, obviously in percentage of their overall numbers. Other than this, none. We are about maxed out however, if we are honest, and have limited depth to take operational losses of people and platforms. We have some great kit, but never enough, older kit, which is just about adequate, but a dangerously low amount of Combat Support and Combat Service Support.… Read more »

Mr Peter M Blythe
Mr Peter M Blythe
3 days ago

According to the Mod, this demonstrates the army’s modernisation. Sending in equipment 30 years old, obsolete and all due for replacement. Challenger2 only 148 getting upgraded, ready for 2027 at the earliest. Wcsp scrapped, Ajax a joke. As 90 obsolete, due to be replaced. This is why our armed forces are in the state they are. All this spin is bollocks, and everyone knows it. Even the head of the British army has now admitted its too small. You can t make all this bullshit up. It appears that lying about everything is now at the center of british politics.

grizzler
grizzler
3 days ago

yeah am I missing something? How is parachuting in a sign of its moderisation?…Now if they’d have flow in on individual jet packs I could have understood it but…

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 days ago
Reply to  grizzler

I’m surprised Richard Browning, head of Gravity Industries hasn’t tried it yet!

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 days ago

I’ve picked up on this before.
16AA has been dropping into places for decades, with P Pltn 1st in.

It’s not modernising it’s spin but MoD press releases are full of it. Shame that no journalist ever grills ministers properly and it’s sites like this where the truth is shouted regards numbers.

DMJ
DMJ
3 days ago

Interested people in sites like this know about things like 16AA, but Joe public doesn’t. Press releases like this are all about keeping up the profile of the armed forces with the general public. The alternative would be to do a “Gerald Ratner” and say everything is cr#p, did work well for him!

DMJ
DMJ
3 days ago
Reply to  DMJ

Didn’t not did

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
3 days ago

Having looked at the article, there is no mention of the MOD spin you talk about.

Mr Peter M Blythe
Mr Peter M Blythe
3 days ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Can I suggest you read the article again. It clearly states that this demonstrates the army’s modernisation. That is a statement from the mod. When you send in equipment that’s at least 30 years old and obsolete, and claim that’s modernisation, if that is not spin I don’t know what is.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
3 days ago

The MOD article about the Pathfinders dropping from a C17 has no mention of ‘Army modernisation ‘

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

You’re right mate.

It is the earlier MoD announcement of the wider Europe wide deployments/exercises of the 8000 that talks of the modernisation. The UKDJ articles often repeat it.

Jonathan
Jonathan
3 days ago

To be fair the British public would not vote for them if they told the truth: look if you actual want an NHS that works you have to pay the same as France or Germany and stop eating yourselves to death. But we don’t want to be responcible for healthcare and have been splitting it up into handy chunks, makes it work like a crappy disjointed thing but it’s easier to sell off under the radar. Or we know we are going to be in a major war at some point, but don’t really want to raise taxes to much… Read more »

Airborne
Airborne
3 days ago

Agreed, but the one thing you can take from this and the other deployments going on at this time is that we have the most experienced, and useable Military in NATO, bar the yanks. Yes these overseas ex has been going on for years, and their is a massive amount of spin at the moment. A lot of our kit is rather mature, and we are thin on the ground, so any operational, and indeed training losses would be keenly felt, however the one thing we have got is the nads to go and get into a fight, we just… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 days ago

In separate news. A truck mounted Brimstone system has been seen on a training area in Ukraine firing three missiles.

Come on Army, if MBDA can gash together a truck mounted system in a few weeks, surely we can do the same with a MAN HX series, or flatbed Foxhound, or a Boxer module, or even a BV206?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Oh, I saw that, assumed it was on ops, and was wondering why so many where crouched in a cluster waiting to get hit.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
2 days ago

And how long have I been posting about this on UKDJ? particularly since the war in Ukraine started!

MBDA_New_concept_of_mobile_air_defense_missile_system_based_on_Boxer_8x8_armored_925_001.jpg
Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
2 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

A very useful bit of kit to have which can have Brimstone mounted on it as well.

maxresdefault.jpg
Last edited 2 days ago by Nigel Collins
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

Tease!

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

Writing on a defence news website isn’t much to boast about Nigel. Write to your MP or camp outside Downing Street or MOD in Whitehall, or Join the RN/RAF/Army reserve if you really want to make a change.

Airborne
Airborne
3 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Agreed mate, looks like a game changer is about to hit the streets of Ukraine. Makes a replacement Striker for the British Army look more and more likely (I hope)

Dern
Dern
2 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Let’s have the Royal Artillery and RAC fight over who gets to use it first 🙂

Airborne
Airborne
2 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Yes! Methinks RA may have taken that mantle, probably due to the range of brimstone alone! Bun fight coming up 😂👍!

Dern
Dern
1 day ago
Reply to  Airborne

I mean makes sense, the RA did have command over the Achilles TD’s in WW2

JamesD
JamesD
2 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

I’m impressed that a curtain sided van took it so well, not a bit of recoil.

grizzler
grizzler
2 days ago
Reply to  JamesD

was it also playing a tune with a row of kids alongside waiting for ice-cream…

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
3 days ago

Great to see. Good luck boys. Tough as nails. Path finders are the cream

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 days ago

Nothing like waddling up to the ramp!

Deep32
Deep32
3 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Why, when you can catch the train!!!! 😂

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 days ago
Reply to  Deep32

Hah. You won’t catch me sliding under the waves, towards Davy Jones etc. Jumping out a plane is easy compared to that.

Airborne
Airborne
3 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Agreed, Deep and his crazy sub buddies are so smart, to be in a modern sub, but must be so smart they are mental….. ;0)

2e
2e
3 days ago

O/T: Brimstone in Ukraine
https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/improvised-truck-mounted-brimstone-missile-launcher-emerges-in-ukraine

Looks like Brimstone 1s missiles have been mounted in a truck. Allegedly one missed and was captured by Russian forces, fully intact. It does not at all look like it’s been fired, Russian lies without a doubt.

Last edited 3 days ago by 2e
Quill
Quill
3 days ago
Reply to  2e

Allegedly, but there are also alleged counter points that the Russians took a picture the Ukrainians uploaded, removed the ukrainian watermark and added a russian watermark.

2e
2e
3 days ago
Reply to  Quill

Adobe needs to work on cancelling Russia’s Photoshop licence😐

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 days ago
Reply to  2e

The video was taken on a Ukrainian field training area. probably near Lviv. The missile in the picture has not been fired. There are no burn marks around the tail end. Its a Russian cut and paste!

Marked
Marked
2 days ago
Reply to  2e

I might be wrong, but doesn’t the brimstone detonate to prevent a missile that’s ran out of propulsion falling to the ground causing collateral damage? Sure I’ve read that but can’t find the source now.

Regardless, that photo does not show a missile that’s reached hundreds of mph then met the ground!

Airborne
Airborne
3 days ago

Ah C17, love that bad boy!

David Flandry
David Flandry
1 day ago

The move, say the Ministry of Defence, “demonstrates the Army’s modernisation into a lethal, agile and global force”.

There are less than 50 pathfinders in the entire Army.