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RAF to deploy to Remote Islands in Outer Hebrides

Atlas propellers, with RAF Regiment soldier kneeling with his rifle.

RAF aircraft and personnel will deploy to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides this week, in a major exercise to develop the future Agile Combat Employment concept.

Agile Combat Employment is a new concept, which aims to enable the RAF to operate from a greater number of locations, to provide increased flexibility and resilience.  It is being developed and implemented using a series of exercises over the next 3 years.

Typhoon about to take off from the runway.

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.

Atlas in flight.

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: 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.

"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."

Squadron Leader Astle
Exercise Planner

Typhoon taking off from the runway.

The RAF have chosen to use Stornoway as a location due to its relative remoteness, which in turn has forced the deploying elements to consider Air transportable options; this removes the easy solutions that simply deploying from known main operating bases provide.  Although currently local to the UK and utilising RAF assets, Agile Combat Exercises will grow to support United States Air Forces in Europe Force Elements and those of NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force partners.

Altas taking off into flight.