Suffolk becomes a ‘troubled region’ for joint British and French paras’ exercise

French and British soldiers perform a 'Rock Drill', which simulates the plan of attack on a large scaled model.'Picture: MoD/Corporal Andy Reddy RLC ANL-150930-094110001
French and British soldiers perform a 'Rock Drill', which simulates the plan of attack on a large scaled model.'Picture: MoD/Corporal Andy Reddy RLC ANL-150930-094110001

French paratroops arrived at the Army’s Wattisham Flying Station on Sunday to take part in a two-week joint exercise with their British counterparts.

Exercise Eagles Amarante involves 1,800 troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade, of which Wattisham’s Apaches are a part, and 11e Brigade Parachutiste. These brigades provide their armies’ rapid reaction forces and the MoD says are at the forefront of Franco-British military co-operation.

French Gazelle helicopters alongside a British Apache at Wattisham - Picture: MoD/Corporal Andy Reddy RLC ANL-150930-094058001

French Gazelle helicopters alongside a British Apache at Wattisham - Picture: MoD/Corporal Andy Reddy RLC ANL-150930-094058001

Together they form the Interim Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (I-CJEF) which is ready to deploy at short notice on operations anywhere in the world.

The two-week exercise started, with British and French troops and equipment converging on Wattisham Flying Station, which is being used as a forward mounting base for the joint force to plan and execute missions from.

The ground troops are supported by British and French aircraft, including Apache attack helicopters from 4 Regiment Army Air Corps; Merlin, Chinook and Puma support helicopters and Hercules transport aircraft from the RAF; Gazelle and Puma helicopters from Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre and Transall transport aircraft from the Armee de l’Air.

Their overall task is to restore stability to a ‘troubled region’, with a key task being a helicopter-borne night raid on Rock Barracks, Woodbridge before the troops parachute onto the Stanta Ranges in Thetford to assault enemy positions.

French and British clerks work alongside each other in administrating the Brigades' Headquarters.'Picture: MoD/Corporal Andy Reddy RLC ANL-150930-094046001

French and British clerks work alongside each other in administrating the Brigades' Headquarters.'Picture: MoD/Corporal Andy Reddy RLC ANL-150930-094046001

Major Chris Prior, second-in-command of 2 Para, said: “Working with the French is a fantastic opportunity and we are sharing experiences and learning a lot from each other already.”

Major Stephan Cognon, chief of staff of 1er RCP, said: “This training is about improving our ability to work together at all levels, from the planning and decision making to the paratroopers working side-by-side on the ground.”