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Commandos call in fast fighter jets and Apaches on Arctic missions

21 February 2020
From covert observation posts on the frozen Norwegian mountainside, commandos have called in fast fighter jets and attack helicopters to destroy ‘enemy’ positions.

Specialists from 29 Commando Royal Artillery, attached to the Royal Marines of 45 Commando during their demanding winter exercises in northern Norway, directed British Army Apache attack helicopters and F-16 fighter jets of the Royal Norwegian Airforce to pummel enemy armour and mortar lines.

From forward positions, these expert commandos – known as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACS) – are responsible for directing the actions of combat aircraft engaged in sorties targeting positions close to friendly forces.

“Working with the Norwegian F-16s and the British Army's Apaches in Norway has been an awesome experience,” said Captain James Walford Royal Marines, Officer Commanding Tactical Air Control Party, 7 Commando Battery 45 Commando.

“Very rarely do we get to work with fast jets dropping such large munitions such as the GBU-10; a highly effective 2000lb laser-guided weapon.

“We have learnt some invaluable lessons from our Norwegian partners about coordinating Close Air Support (CAS) in Arctic and mountainous conditions, which we will look to utilise in upcoming international exercises such as Exercise Cold Response.”

The commandos used a targeting laser – the beam is invisible but the laser-guided munition detects a signal to steer itself onto the target identified – to hit positions with the GBU-10 smart bomb.

The Plymouth-based troops also coordinated attacks of MK82 (500lb conventional bomb) and strafing runs firing 20mm cannons onto ground position from the F-16.

Working with the Norwegian F-16s and the British Army's Apaches in Norway has been an awesome experience

Captain James Walford Royal Marines

As temperatures plummeted to -20C, the JTACs called in the Apache from the Army Air Corps which launched a salvo at the targets.

The gunners from the Commando Battery were also making use of the vast Norwegian training areas.

Capt Walford added: “The gunners made the most of Norway’s expansive training areas by conducting live fire training with their L118 Light Gun, the versatile artillery weapon used by the parachute and commando field artillery regiments of the British Army.

“Firing a 105mm round, the gun is capable of firing eight rounds a minute over 20.6km away.

“In this serial, the guns were used in a ‘Direct Fire’ role, meaning that they were used to engage at relatively closer targets in defence of the gun line.

“The gun uses an automatic pointing system (APS) which enables it to be unlimbered and in action in 30 seconds.”


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