NATO capability on display
Roger Cook, Pynelea Photo Bureau reports from Wattisham on a recent NATO demonstration. All photography by the author.
On 9 September 2003 16 Air Assault Brigade presented a capability demonstration to the Chiefs of Defence Staff from the nineteen countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's Military Committee. Also attending were the Chiefs of Defence Staff of the seven countries hoping to join NATO in the near future together with officers from the NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The NATO Committee, currently chaired by General Harald Kujat, convenes three times a year at Chief of Defence Staff level, of which two meetings take place in Brussels and the third is hosted by NATO members on a rotational basis. This year the NATO Military Committee visited Wattisham as part of a two-day tour of the UK followed by a two-day visit to France.
The demonstration was organised by 16 Air Assault Brigade but involved many other units of the British Army together with various squadrons of the Royal Air Force. The scenario before the NATO guests was the capture of an unfriendly airfield in order to dislocate military preparations of a possible invasion and to ensure the integrity of the international border. The demo was to show the effectiveness of a rapid reaction force - for this purpose Wattisham became the imaginary airfield of 'Mypani' in the unfriendly territory of 'Saxonia'.
First was the deployment of a Pathfinder force, either by a high level parachute drop or delivery by Lynx helicopters. This was followed by a photo recce of the airfield by a Jaguar of 54 Squadron and the airfield was then 'softened' by Tornados from 31 and II(AC) Squadrons. Two Hercules C3s then demonstrated a tactical delivery of troops and armoured vehicles while an Apache helicopter provided cover. This was backed up by delivery of more armament by two Chinooks from 18 Squadron. On the rehearsal day a final tactical delivery was made by C-17A from 99 Squadron but for some reason this did not materialise on the actual demonstration day.
There was a very extensive ground display of men and materials for the NATO Chiefs of Staff to inspect following the demonstration including two Wattisham based Lynxes and a Gazelle together with a Merlin HC3 from 28 Squadron.
Also visiting Wattisham for the event were C-37A 10076 of the 86th Air Wing, a very anonymous looking C-37A 10030 from MacDill AFB, Florida, a Falcon 20 93/F-RAED from Villacoublay, and French Air Force Airbus A310 422/F-RADB to take the NATO party to Cannes for the second part of their meeting.