The RAF has successfully completed the strategically important NATO Capability Evaluation (CAPEVAL) at RAF Leeming. Due to how heavily the RAF has been committed to global operations (predominantly in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria), this is the first evaluation of this type since 2004. As such, the personnel who have deployed on CAPEVAL have been required to re-familiarise themselves with NATO doctrine and how to deploy in a fully NATO compliant manner. NATO operations require the deployed force to deploy under three distinct pillars: Air Operations, Logistics (including air engineers) and Force Protection (FP) with an Headquarters (135 Expeditionary Air Wing) that seamlessly commands and controls the deployed force. The Air Operations Pillar was provided by number One (Fighter) Squadron and II (Army Cooperation) Squadron of the Typhoon Force from RAF Lossiemouth who deployed with 10 Typhoon jets. The FP Force elements that deployed on the evaluation were commanded by number 7 FP Wing from RAF Coningsby who had Number 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, Number 1 (Tactical) Police Squadron from RAF Honington, a role one deployed medical facility, two fully operationally capable Fire crews (providing CAT 5 Response) and a deployable combat administrative Team. Having all of these capabilities under a single FP Wing Headquarters is novel for the FP Force. The wider FP Force and FP Training Flights from across the RAF also supported the evaluation by providing instructors and sector commanders which were critical to the success of the evaluation.
The deployed force was evaluated by 120 NATO evaluators who came from across the 29 NATO member states. The scenario tested the force against a near peer fictional enemy with over 350 realistic scenarios over a three day period. This was highly challenging for the deployed force who were required to operate in a demanding, realistic and complex environment. The outstanding achievements of the men and women deployed as part of 135 EAW should not be underestimated – NATO CAPEVAL 2020 has been a strategically important success for the RAF.
Wing Commander Paul Hamilton, OC 7 Force Protection (FP) Wing and the FP Commander for CAPEVAL stated:
The CAPEVAL journey has required 18 months of hard work from across the FP Force, the RAF Medical and Fire Services to ensure we achieved such a successful outcome during this challenging evaluation. The level of integration required from across RAF specialisms should not be underestimated and I am immensely proud of how all the personnel under my command and the specialist wider FP instructors, who trained the deployed force to such a high standard, made this challenging evaluation so successful. I was humbled when the senior NATO evaluators stated that it was the best performance they have seen for some years. I would like to personally thank all those involved for their outstanding support.
Corporal Alex Bew from Number 1 (Tactical) Police Wing stated that:
For myself, CAPEVAL provided a unique opportunity to work alongside many other trades, offering me the opportunity to develop an insight into what each specialisation does to contribute towards Air Operations in a war fighting environment. In the space of four weeks it was clear that from what I saw that the confidence and interoperability within 135 EAW grew tenfold, culminating in a successful NATO assessment.