II Squadron RAF Regiment is twinned with the French Air Force unit, Commando Parachutiste de’l Air 20 (CPA20) who are based in Orange, Cote d’Azur. CPA20 are Air Force Protection specialists who are parachute enabled and highly proficient in Dismounted Close Combat (DCC) tactics, techniques and procedures. II Squadron and CPA 20 have conducted numerous interoperability training exercises in recent years, allowing each iteration to become progressively more complex and testing; Exercise MANOIR CENTURION (MC) provided the opportunity for II Squadron and CPA20 to drive their interoperability to the next level.
Ex MC was a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force supporting exercise conducted within the Complex Air Ground Environment (CAGE) Training Area located at RAF Honington. Split over two weeks, Ex MC provided one week of interoperability training and a scenario-based, tactical exercise. The interoperability training allowed the cross-pollination of tactics and expertise in close-quarters battle skills, battlefield first aid, search procedures, Military Working Dog employment, countering the insider threat, and the execution of Tactical Landing Zone (TLZ) operations. All of the interoperability training was supported by subject matter experts provided by the RAF Police High Readiness Dog Unit and Tactical Air Traffic Control (TacATC).
The scenario-based exercise was set against a requirement for the combined II Squadron and CPA20 unit to enable a TLZ in order to establish a safe and secure environment and facilitate the processing/extraction of Entitled Persons within a Non-Combatant Evacuation (NEO) operation. On the commencement of the NEO scenario, personnel were deployed by 47 Squadron C130 from RAF Mildenhall to RAF Honington with the TLZ remaining active throughout the scenario, being regularly utilised by C130 assets. Specialist support was provided by TacATC, the RAF FP Centre Remotely Piloted Air Systems Team, the RAF Regt Air Land Integration Cell, and 4 FP Wg RAF Police Aviation Security specialists – exercising and demonstrating a sizeable part of the spectrum capabilities available to the RAF Force Protection Force.
Ex MC provided an excellent opportunity for the tactical development of relationships and tactics between two specialist, parachute-aligned Air FP units. The support received from key enablers was first-rate and facilitated well resourced, testing and realistic training. All personnel performed exceptionally and the RAF Honington CAGE Training Area provided the perfect environment for the full array of specialist Air FP capabilities to be exercised and developed.
"Ex MANOIR CENTURION for many of us was our first exposure to working alongside our NATO and French counterparts CPA 20. An exciting two-week package consisting of intensive Close-Quarters Battle skills training as well as lessons in communications, combat first aid, and how to establish and operate a Tactical Landing Zone. We also had an opportunity to get to know the CPA 20 commandos, and learn ways we could bridge the language gap."
"Following the first week of lessons, we were put to the test in a 72-hour long Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) based confirmation exercise. To ensure maximum interoperability between us and CPA 20, the Flight was made up of sections compromising of both British and French airman. To start the exercise we were landed onto a TLZ at RAF Honington’s developing Complex Air Ground Environment training area. Once we had established ourselves on the ground we were immediately approached by ‘civilians’, something that we rarely encounter when conducting our usual live firing exercises in South Wales. Injects came at us from the moment we stepped off the C130, civilians demanding water and protection, enemy engagements whilst clearing the local area that had both known enemy combatants and civilians within it, all the time operating within our rules of engagement much like what we would expect to encounter for real."
"Another memorable inject was utilising Forward Air Controllers with Hawk aircraft and Remotely Piloted Air Systems alongside other agencies such as the RAF Police, Military Working Dogs and Tactical Air Traffic Controllers. This allowed us to see the airframes above us fully integrated to support our activity on the ground and ingrained the notion that we must deliver our role as gunners to protect and enable these assets to dominate and protect us on the ground, it that gave us exposure to the power and affect air can deliver. Supporting NEOs is something that II Squadron could easily find ourselves doing at a moment’s notice with the Air Mobility Force and with the increasing demand for nations to work together, we must continue on this path and develop our interoperability with CPA20, something we are all looking forward to."
Sqn Ldr Mark Bowden:
"This exercise was the culmination of a great deal of hard work by the Sqn to deliver a testing, enjoyable and well-resourced joint exercise with our sister unit, CPA20 – something I feel we undoubtedly achieved. The opportunity provided by our relationship to develop tactics, techniques and procedures alongside another highly performing and motivated unit is immeasurable. This sort of activity not only develops my gunners and the commandos of CPA20 but provides opportunities for other key enablers to integrate and develop alongside us."
"The final day of the exercise not only perfectly demonstrated what II Sqn and CPA20 are about but it also showcased the full spectrum of effects that the RAF FP Force can deliver and enable in support of Air operations. To observe a TLZ; established and protected by TacATC and ourselves, enabling C130 operations by 47 Sqn, being supported by RAF Regt Tactical Air Controllers and Fast Air from 100 Sqn, with additional organic awareness being provided to the Ground Commander by the RAF Regt Remotely Piloted Air Systems Team, was excellent and underlined the pivotal role that the FP Force plays in coordinating and delivering FP effects to protect and, if required, defend air assets in support of a whole plethora of operations."
"The rapidly developing Complex Air Ground Environment training facility at RAF Honington also provided the perfect, role-specific, location for us to conduct this exercise and is a facility that we hope to utilise further as it is developed. We look forward to continuing to develop our relationship and interoperability with CPA20 and the training opportunities this will provide."
‘L’exercice franco britannique Manoir Centurion qui s’est déroulé du 8 au 19 avril a permis de mettre en lumière des procédés techniques et tactiques standardisés dans des domaines variés tels que la Resevac ou le combat en milieu clos pour simplifier nos procédures, dans le but d’être, un jour, projeté ensemble sur un théâtre d’opération extérieur et de pouvoir travailler de concert sur la protection de la force.’
‘The combined British/French exercise that took place during the period 8 – 19 April 19 presented an opportunity to practice standard Tactics Techniques and procedures in the various domains such as Close Quarters Combat and non-combatant evacuation operations . The aim is to be able to deploy on operations and to work closely together in order to protect the Force.’
‘Cet exercice présente une belle opportunité de travailler ensemble avec les spécialistes de la protection de la force aérienne de la Royal Air Force dans un environnement exigeant, réel et complexe’
‘This exercise was an excellent opportunity to work closely with the RAF FP specialists in a challenging, realistic and complex environment.’
CNE (OF2) Florian Moser, CPA20