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War in the West Country

EXERCISE EAGLES STRIKE 05 - Words by Rich Pittman, with additional photography by Lee Howard, Andy Bond and Neil Jones. Additional info by Richard Cliff and Morley Lester.

The South West of England has just played host to a major 16 Air Assault Brigade (16 AAB) exercise, which took place between Dartmoor and Salisbury Plain between 16 - 27 May. 'Eagles Strike 05', involving large numbers of Army and RAF units, had as its main aim the validation of 9 Regiment Army Air Corps with the Apache AH1 helicopter as the initial Aviation Battle Group. This report gives just a very small insight into part of a massive exercise involving a total of some 3,500 troops, 1,500 vehicles and up to forty-four helicopters.

The exercise, the first of this size in seven years, got underway over the weekend of 14 16 May with the participating aircraft deploying to RAF St Mawgan, Cornwall. Soon afterwards, on the evening of Wednesday 18 May, Dartmoor was 'attacked' with aircraft using Eaglescott airfield in North Devon as a Forward Air Refuelling Point (FARP).

The enemy 'Hinds' and 'Hips' (in reality Gazelle and Lynx aircraft) were initially stationed for the week at RNAS Merryfield, Yeovilton's satellite airfield near Ilminster, Somerset.

Between Friday 20 and Saturday 21 May the Apache AH1s, occasionally using Chivenor in North Devon, attacked the 'enemy' at Merryfield. A large battle developed and eventually saw the Apaches sending the 'enemy' packing to Keevil airfield in Wiltshire. Hercules C5s also used Yeovilton for trooping movements on 20 May.

With Merryfield now all to themselves, the 'allies' soon packed the base full of army equipment - around 2,800 troops and helicopters. On Sunday 22 May, 16 AAB held an open afternoon for the locals by way of thanks for putting up with the noise and disruption caused by the exercise. Unfortunately for those who attended the weather was poor, but nevertheless some of us did get a rare opportunity to sit in a Apache!

Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 May found the Apaches working just after dusk, much to the annoyance of myself and Andy Bond who had spent the day patiently waiting for some action to begin.

Wednesday 25 May proved to be very busy with a fair amount of Chinook and Merlin movements (callsign 'Goldfish') in support of the exercise. The 'allies' were due to mount an attack on Keevil and later the training village of Imber on Salisbury Plain, although this cannot, as yet, be confirmed.

 

APACHE AH1, 9 REGT/656 SQN & 664 SQN, AAC DISHFORTH: CALLSIGNS USED (Thanks to Richard Cliff) - Adage, Agate, Asphalt, Atlas, Ballpoint, Balsa, Beaker, Capoc, Demon, Dogstar, Fabric, Firecrest, Harlequin, Honker, Humid, Orpheus, Vanguard.
ZJ172 - Both weeks.
ZJ183 9 Regt/664 Sqn. Both weeks. Arr St Mawgan 16 May.
ZJ185 9 Regt/664 Sqn. Both weeks. Arr St Mawgan 16 May.
ZJ193 - ex-Yeovil. Both weeks. Noted by 17 May.
ZJ196 9 Regt/664 Sqn. Both weeks. Noted by 17 May.
ZJ204 9 Regt/664 Sqn. Both weeks. Noted by 17 May.
ZJ208 9 Regt/656 Sqn. Both weeks. Noted by the 17 May.
ZJ224 9 Regt/656 Sqn. Both weeks. Arr St Mawgan 16 May.
ZJ225 9 Regt/656 Sqn. Both weeks. Noted by 17 May.
ZJ227 9 Regt/656 Sqn. Arr Merryfield Tues 24 May.
ZJ228 9 Regt/656 Sqn. Both weeks. Confirmed by 18.
ZJ229 9 Regt/656 Sqn. Both weeks. Arr St Mawgan 16 May.
ZJ230 9 Regt/664 Sqn. Both weeks. Arr St Mawgan 16 May.
ZJ232 9 Regt/664 Sqn. Both weeks. Arr St Mawgan 16 May.
ZJ233 9 Regt/656 Sqn. First week. Arr St Mawgan 16 May (departed Sat 21(?) for Wattisham(?))
 
CHINOOK HC2/HC2A, 18 SQN & 27 SQN RAF ODIHAM:
ZA682 - 18 Sqn special 90th Anniversary marks, seen Merryfield (has 18 Sqn official badge on rear pylon).
ZA705 18 Sqn (u/m). Seen at Merryfield.
ZD980 - 27 Sqn (u/m)
ZH775 - (u/m)
ZH893 - 18 Sqn ('BM') Merryfield open day static airframe 22 May.
ZH894 - (u/m)
 
MERLIN HC3, 28 (AC) SQN, RAF BENSON:
ZJ120 (D) - Arr St Mawgan by 17 May.
ZJ124 (H) - Seen Merryfield by 22 May.
ZJ127 (L) - Arr St Mawgan by 17 May. Seen departing Merryfield 23 as 'Vortex 290'.
ZJ128 (M) - Seen Merryfield 24 May. Static at the open day on 22 May.
ZJ129 (N) - Seen Merryfield 25 May.
ZJ131 (P) - Arr St Mawgan by 17 May.
ZJ135 (T) - Arr St Mawgan by 17 May. Seen at Merryfield 25 May.
 
LYNX AH7
XZ173 At Merryfield by 19 May.
XZ208 4 Regt. Arr St Mawgan 16 May. Seen Merryfield 25 May.
XZ210 - Arr St Mawgan 16 May.
XZ212 1 Regt/652 Sqn Gutersloh. At St Mawgan by at least 18 May. Seen Merryfield 25 May.
XZ219 - At Merryfield by 19 May.
XZ670 4 Regt. At St Mawgan by at least 18 May.
XZ675 3 Regt/653 Sqn Wattisham. Arr St Mawgan 16 May.
XZ673 - Arr St Mawgan 16 May. Seen at Merryfield 21 May.
ZD279 - At St Mawgan by at least 18 May. Seen Merryfield 25 May.
ZD283 - 3 Regt/653 Sqn Wattisham (u/m). Seen Merryfield 22 May.
 
LYNX AH9, 9 REGT/672 SQN, AAC DISHFORTH:
ZG885 - Arr St Mawgan by 17 May. Seen Merryfield 23 May.
ZG915 - Seen Merryfield 23 - 25 May.
ZG916 - At St Mawgan by at least 18 May. Seen Merryfield 25 May.
 
GAZELLE AH1:
XX372 4 Regt/654 Sqn Wattisham. At Merryfield by 19 May.
XX419 4 Regt/654 Sqn Wattisham. At Merryfield by 19 May.
XX445 658 Sqn Netheravon. At St Mawgan by at least 18 May.
XX449 4 Regt/654 Sqn Wattisham. At Merryfield by 19 May.
XX453 4 Regt/654 Sqn Wattisham. At St Mawgan by at least 18 May. Seen Merryfield 25 May.
XZ292 654 Sqn Wattisham. At St Mawgan by at least 18 May. Seen Merryfield 25 May.
XZ331 4 Regt/654 Sqn Wattisham. At Merryfield by 19 May.
ZB691 4 Regt/654 Sqn Wattisham. At St Mawgan by at least 18 May.
ZB692 4 Regt/654 Sqn Wattisham. At St Mawgan by 18 May. Seen Merryfield 22 - 25 May.
 
SEA KING ASAC7, 849 SQN HQ FLT RNAS CULDROSE:
XV649 ('180/CU') - All arr Merryfield 23rd May (c/s 'Beesting formation').
XV671 ('183/N').
ZD636 ('182/CU').
 
C-130 HERCULES, LYNEHAM TRANSPORT WING:
ZH867 - Operating between St Mawgan and Yeovilton Friday 20 May (c/s 'Ascot 526', wore Eagle marking on nose, presumably taken from 16 AAB badge).
ZH883 Operating between St Mawgan and Yeovilton Friday 20 May (c/s 'Ascot 525').
Log compiled by Rich Pittman at Merryfield (second week) and Morley Lester at St Mawgan (first week)

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