Typhoon jets and an A400M transport aircraft will deploy to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides in a major test of the ‘Agile Combat Employment’ concept.

Agile Combat Employment say the Royal Air Force, “aims to enable the RAF to operate from a greater number of locations”, to provide increased flexibility and resilience.

According to a news release:

“It is being developed and implemented using a series of exercises over the next 3 years. Around 60 personnel will deploy as part of the exercise, known as Exercise AGILE PIRATE, which will practice refuelling and rearming of Typhoon fighter jets from a forward location. 

Operating from Stornoway Airport, the Island of Lewis will play host to visiting Typhoon from RAF Lossiemouth and A400M from RAF Brize Norton. A Headquarters from 138 Expeditionary Air Wing based at RAF Marham will command the deployment made up of specialists in personnel preparation and admin, tactical refuelling teams, armaments experts, logisticians, Force Protection and not least civilian cooperation and support from Stornoway Airport.”

The exercise is designed to test a fundamental question say the Royal Air Force: what is the minimum footprint of people and kit and processes required to successfully deploy and sustain aircraft to a temporary location at short notice.

Squadron Leader Astle, Exercise Planner, was quoted as saying:

“The next few days will test our ability with the minimum footprint of people and kit to receive, debrief, re-arm, refuel and rebrief a Combat Air capability.  In short bursts of activity, we will use an A400M to bring in kit and also directly refuel our in-situ fuel bowser to support the Typhoon – an activity delivered by 1 Expeditionary Logistics Squadron from RAF Wittering. 

At the same time, 6 Squadron engineers will service and simulate re-arming the aircraft while the crews take advantage of our deployed comms capability to debrief and rebrief prior to re-launching.  All of this under the watchful eye of a deployed team from 34 Squadron RAF Regiment and other security specialists providing an enclave protection and counter-intruder capability.”

You can read more on this from the RAF here.

 

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Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
1 month ago

This is like what the f35b is made for lol. Good to get the skills worked up for each jet type. I would imagine one of the harder items will be moving the weapons. Can 1 A400 carry the fuel, weapon reloads, personnel, lunch and all the other kit in one go?

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
1 month ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Hi Monkey, I have my doubts that a single A440M would carry everything and everyone in a single load. Fuel is probably transported via the A400M own fuel tanks depending on how far the aircraft is deploying. If fuel is carried in the cargo bay (if they do that) then I think it is highly unlikely that they would carry personnel as well just in case. I suspect that the simulation of reload weapons is for two possible reasons, 1) developing ground security procedures around the ‘enclave’ including safety procedures for the munitions; 2) keeping the deployment to a minimum… Read more »

Quill
Quill
1 month ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Most of the time they don’t carry a physical fuel tank within the cargo bay, they just carry a fuel bladder that is like a expanding storage container, hence the ‘bladder’ that the a400m or another large aircraft uses fuel from it’s own aircraft tanks to fill up and leave the bladder on the ground. I suspect the bladders dry weight though comes in a pretty hefty weight alone though.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago

Stornoway hosted F3’s in the Cold War. Does it still have the HAS site?

Crabfat
Crabfat
1 month ago

Just checked on Google Earth. You can still see signs of old dispersal sites but no HAS-type buildings. I guess, if necessary (say, for weather protection) they could erect temporary shelters.
Cheers!

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  Crabfat

Interesting. I do not doubt you but curious to look myself. Could have sworn a site had been built there.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  Crabfat

To the west of the airfield there is a fenced off compound with what look like revetment shelters like the types at MPA. It is some distance from the runways. Not HAS but maybe this was the location I recall. I don’t think that location looks like a storage area.

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 month ago

That’s the old ammo dump.

If they wanted to work there for anything longer than a week, they will definitely need some temporary shelters for both aircraft and support. The area is very flat and there is no natural geological protection. When a storm rolls in you better make sure things are battened down as they will soon disappear.

Mr Mark Franks
Mr Mark Franks
1 month ago

Deploy with the minimum personnel!
Mind you when ever I deployed on operations going back 20 odd years ago, you more personnel than you could shake a stick at.

TabYomper
TabYomper
1 month ago

The RAF Regiment needs to be disbanded with staff going to depleted army units.They werent deemed upto the job for the Afghan withdraw.

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

Why, will the Army then step in to do the 5 mile perimeter defence of the airfields? Highly doubtful, it is essential that the RAF provides their own force protection, therefore it is always guaranteed. Instead of the Army saying sorry, we can’t spare anyone at the moment, as they are all busy, as they have done on numerous occasions in the past!

Donaldson
Donaldson
1 month ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Do the RAF Reg have active deployments currently such as Akrotiri or Mount Pleasant?

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  Donaldson

Yes, they’re at Goa to.

Graham
Graham
1 month ago
Reply to  Donaldson

I doubt RAF Regt still do their 4 month tours at MPA – they don’t have any Rapiers.

Graham
Graham
1 month ago
Reply to  Daveyb

When has the RAF ever asked the army for Force Protection? RAF specialise in this and took over FP from the army at Camp Bastion in 2009. Although it is ground defence only as they chose to lose the Rapiers years ago.

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham

The one that immediately comes to mind and is directly relevant to me was during the UN intervention in Kosovo. There was a mad rush to get to Pristina airport between the Brits and Russians. We wanted to use it as the UK’s main base of operations. To set matters straight the RAF got there first! Through a couple of Chinooks and Pumas. The crews were told the place had been secured by the ground forces. When they were actually still 30km away. About 3 hours after landing the first Russians turned up and were surprised to find four Brit… Read more »

Steve M
Steve M
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Just need to gently remind them that if they want ther food/mail/AMMO etc to arrive quickly then they better makesure the airport is safe otherwise they can wait for the RLC to drive it there!!!! which if a real FOB away from main support is not going to happen anytime soon.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

Bad idea.

Lee Cook
Lee Cook
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

That doesn’t seem like a smart move, especially if units are to deploy in austere conditions. I remember working with Regiment and seeing the different tasks they carry out. It’s a really specialised area with its own special considerations, and I doubt it would be a good idea hoping a 72,000 strong army will want to protect airfields as well.

Stephen McCreadie
Stephen McCreadie
1 month ago
Reply to  Lee Cook

Aye who needs more stag duty

Paul T
Paul T
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

From memory the British Army had no appetite whatsoever of taking over the Role of Airbase/Airfield Security, which therefore explains why the RAF Regiment has survived being disbanded all these years.

Graham
Graham
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul T

Army provided Base security to Camp Bastion, including of course the huge airfield, up to 2009, when the RAF Regt and RAF Police took over. I am talking about lead role.

Lee Cook
Lee Cook
1 month ago

what I find a bit shocking is that the RAF don’t already do this and know what it takes to operate in dispersed and rustic conditions. Although I don’t think the UK itself is at any kind of risk of needing to operate as such, it seems to me that this should always have been a capability that was available and understood given the multitude of conflict types and theatres in which the UK has operated for decades. I had the feeling the old Harrier force was trained to operate from austere locations. About time RAF woke up and blew… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 month ago
Reply to  Lee Cook

They do, but within the Puma and Chinook force! Fixed wing plank trash haven’t really done anything austere since the cold war days. The problem they will find is that it takes a lot of people to provide 24/7 operations from an austere site, especially when doing 12 on 12 off shifts, something the RAF no longer has.

Meirion x
Meirion x
1 month ago
Reply to  Lee Cook

Quite a lot of people thought the Cold War had ended, until this last few years!
Yes, good job the RAF has woken up, they are going to need to forward deploy Tphoo’s in places like Northern Norway to intercept TU-22/Tu160’s before they get a chance to fire their missiles. Allowing them to approach near UK airspace is too close to comfort!

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
1 month ago
Reply to  Meirion x

Or we could let the Norwegian Air force with it’s F35’s do the job.

Meirion x
Meirion x
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

The NAF with a buy of only 30 F-35A’s, with maybe just a Squadron to fly at short notice, would quickly be overwhelmed.
Norway is only a small country population wise.

Esteban
Esteban
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

UK defense policy in a nutshell…let someone else do it

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
1 month ago
Reply to  Esteban

Not really. But this is why we work with other nations to ensure operability. When RAF Typhoons intercept Russia Bears, they have already been escorted by the Norwegians. They then hand over to our area of responsibility.

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
1 month ago
Reply to  Lee Cook

This is not the same as the old Harrier deployments. They deployed a relatively large number of personal for an extended period. This is more the basics required for a couple of aircraft to very quickly deploy. Strike, rearm, refuel, rebrief, Strike again, then get out and head home.

Steve M
Steve M
1 month ago

such a long way fm Lossie to Stornoway!!!!! jets fm Conningsby or Marham would at least make it seem realistic over 400 instead 100miles……….:-) may have well used Kinloss! Shame they didn’t keep places lie Bishops Court or Ballykelly for this type of activity.

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve M

Places we used in the past were St. Mawgan, Brawdy, West Freugh, Macrihanish and Kirkwall in the Orkneys, Along with some HAS sites at Leeming, Boscombe and Honnington.

Tufton Bufton
Tufton Bufton
1 month ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Liberators of Coastal Command were once based at Benbecula Ap in the Uists, just south of Stornaway. If this was more than a deployment exercise, and if there’s serious concern about possible lodgements in the Western Isles, they need to assess the options for Benbecula too.

Separately, Denmark is a weak state and their ability to defend the Faroes is questionable. British forces occupied these islands from about 1940 onwards, preventing their use by Nazi Germany. Hopefully they haven’t binned the plans.

Chris
Chris
1 month ago

“The exercise is designed to test a fundamental question say the Royal Air Force: what is the minimum footprint of people and kit and processes number of hotel stars required to successfully deploy and sustain aircraft to a temporary location at short notice.”

Sorry… I couldn’t resist! 😂

Steve M
Steve M
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris

Always checked in NEVER EVER dug-in 🙂

Chris
Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve M

😂

Paul42
Paul42
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris

1 Typhoon, try it with 6 and see if it works

Graham
Graham
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris

I was thinking that too. Austere for RAF aircrew probably means slumming it in a 4 star hotel instead of a 5 star one!

Ron
Ron
1 month ago

First of all I am supprised that this type of dispersal is not standard procedure. I always thought it was. Then comes my question, how do they do it? I would think that for any real situation dispersal would be at the flight level, I take it it is still four aircraft for a flight. If that is the case then refueling from the onboard tanks of a A-400 will not give much fuel so fuel bladders that are carried in the hold would be needed. Then come weapons reloads, if fuel is carried in the hold then there is… Read more »

Lee1
Lee1
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron

There would be 1 initial deployment to get everything started then the transports will be doing shuttle runs to stock up the airfield.

Steve M
Steve M
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron

A400M weight about 78Tons empty+crew, MaxTO 141Tons, Max Landing 123Tons, so 63Tons total avail from depart home base, fuel burn approx 4T ph so you fly 4.5hrs and land at max weight with total 45Ton of fuel/weapons,enginners, a/c spares, Tents, foods etc so if allow 20T for everything except fuel leaves 25t Fuel in the A400, assuming the plan is you want it to get home it needs 18Tons to RTB leaving 7tons to refuel the Typhoons, as Typhoon can carry 4.9 ton you could top off 2? you could half the amount of spares etc make the engineers sleep… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron

WRT fuel don’t forget the GPSS, Government Pipeline Storage System. Sold off from the GPA so no longer totally in MoD hands but still exists and fuel would be pumped through it to many possible dispersal locations in the UK. They don’t have to just use near deserted runways on the Scottish islands. Many ex RAF stations and the main airports could be used. Lots of options available at least.

The other ground support elements, not so easy as I don’t think the manpower exists. At least the infrastructure does.

Ron
Ron
1 month ago

Hi Daniele, hope life is good. I agree to do it in the UK is more than possible. Now do it in real life situations say in the North of Norway. I expect that in any conflict with Russia God forbid, Northern Norway will need RAF help with limited or no infrastructure available. Possibly we would send one if not two squadrons to Norway so we need topractise our ability to keep them in the field. This is a real situation, say for example Russia attacks Norway and captures Badufoss, that means a 600 mile round trip reduction in distance… Read more »

Meirion x
Meirion x
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron

The UK MoD should insist on stationing
aircraft including an A400 at Bodo.
Norway lacks aircraft, with only 30 F-35A’s.
I wholeheartedly agree with you Ron on this.

Last edited 1 month ago by Meirion x
Graham
Graham
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron

Under what circumstances would Russia attack Norway? To what benefit?That starts WW3.

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron

It used to be. We used to have Exercise Artic Warrior that was held from Bardufoss in Norway during the winter months. It involved all three services. From the RAF perspective it was the annual training exercise for both 33 Sqn (Pumas) and 41 Sqn (Jaguars) in support of the Royal Marines reinforcing Norway’s northern border with Russia. When the JAGs were phased out, there didn’t seem to be an appetite for the Tornados to do the exercise. The Pumas still do the exercise annually. Sometimes one of the Chinook Squadrons also goes in support. As Norway is part of… Read more »

Simon
Simon
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Davey b, is the scenario that the threat level from Russia goes very high. UK deploys typhoons to Norway at dispersed austerity sites.

Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries
1 month ago

I deployed to Stornaway twice during the 80s with F-4s and Tornado. We used a tactical mobile radar for ATC purposes and the Control Tower as well. I think we just used the Airports own fuel then. I was accommodated in an old war time Nissen Hut. Definitely not 5 star! There was a small RAF unit with a canteen for meals. The hangar was I believe NATO funded. So may be available for a Typhoon with the SAR Helicopters based there. Otherwise I suppose they can rig a mobile “Hangar.” It might be a little more realistic with at… Read more »

Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries
1 month ago

Stornaway

Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries
1 month ago

Damn predicted text. Stornoway! Edit not working from iPad.

Sailor 1
Sailor 1
1 month ago

Will that be a deployment for the next 25 days or so?

Mike
Mike
1 month ago

Been there, done that. 12 Sqn, early 70’s. As I recall it, we deployed as a self contained unit. Why the fuss?

Leonidas
Leonidas
1 month ago

I was reading this article and thought the place name Stornoway was familiar, and then I realized it was an important location in Tom Clancy’s 1986 classic novel “Red Storm Rising.”

Frazer Wigg
Frazer Wigg
1 month ago

Is that a picture of former RAF Leuchars …looks incredibly hilly a d steep .. I visited it a few yyears back, don’t remember it being that rugged??