On the 7th and 8th of December, members of the RAF's Photographic profession welcomed photographers and media officers from the Irish Air Corps Defence Press and the United States Air Force Combat Camera Team of the 48th Fighter Wing, RAF Lakenheath, to RAF Brize Norton for Exercise ALLIED LENS, a skill-sharing exercise utilising RAF Aircraft.
In what is a first for the RAF and the Photographic trade, the exercise started with the photographers working with Chinook Helicopters from 27 Squadron based at RAF Odiham, who were at Brize Norton working with the RAF’s Medical Emergency Response Team, exercising moving casualties to hospital.
Working with this aircraft provided a unique challenge to the photographers due to the extreme downwash created by the aircrafts rotors. Coupled with the cold weather and an activity that the photographers have never captured before, this resulted in them all being in an unfamiliar situation, working alongside an aircraft they had little knowledge of, in a location they did not know, truly pushing them out of their respective comfort zones.
This was followed by a visit to RAF Brize Norton’s runway 25 threshold where, despite the weather, they had the chance to witness the massive Globemaster C17, flown by 99 Squadron, arriving from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. Being this close to a live runway gave the visiting photographers an appreciation of the size of the aircraft but also the need to be fully aware of your surroundings.
"The wide variety of load types that both the C17 and Chinook can transport and watching those aircraft types operating out of the Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit and RAF Brize Norton, was one of the most interesting aspects of the exercise. The passion the RAF Photographers have for their trade really shone through in both their professionalism and their quality of work. Exercise ALLIED LENS was a really useful learning experience for the Irish Air Corps Media Team and it’s an idea we hope to reciprocate in 2022."
Irish Air Corps Defence Press
The exercise gave all involved a chance to share their knowledge, hints and tips and best practices. Working closely with different units promotes best practice both in terms of aerial tasking and day-to-day operations whilst strengthening the relationship and interoperability between the RAF and allied forces whom members of the RAF photographic trade often deploy alongside.
"Exercises like ALLIED LENS provide unique training and insight into how our allies accomplish their missions. Specifically, how our missions align with the mutual success of our nations. It provides us with a chance to train and improve our targeted messages and information operations by learning from each other, sharpening our multimedia skills and improving communications between the participating nations. I have no doubt this is the start of a much bigger effort in joint training over the next few years."
Technical Sergeant Albers
United States Air Force
Exercise ALLIED LENS may be over for 2021, but there are plans in place to repeat the exercise here in the UK on a larger scale alongside moving the exercise to a different hosting nation as it looks to evolve and grow from this first iteration.
"This was an invaluable exercise for all who attended, allowing for a greater level of understanding as to how our allies operate, how they prepare, plan and execute any task given to them. Being able to break down everything from how our allies hierarchy looks, how they are tasked, the kit they use, the people they employ and where they are utilised was invaluable to us as RAF photographers. It gave us a much deeper understanding as to how our friends operate, so that in the future we can deploy alongside them to great effect increasing the capability and media output of the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Defence and the Irish Defence Forces."
Exercise ALLIED LENS Project Officer