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UPDATE - Jump has now taken place. Click here to watch
At dusk this evening, thousands of soldiers will leap from aeroplanes.
The sky will be filled with parachutes as men, machines and weapons descend 800 feet towards the Drop Zone (DZ) at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, on the east coast of the United States.
They’ll be taking part in a Joint Forcible Entry mission, the climax of the largest US/UK joint exercise for 20 years – JOAX the Joint Operational Access Exercise.
Around 950 personnel from 3 PARA Battlegroup, part of 16 Air Assault brigade are taking part, working alongside the American 2nd Brigade Combat Team, from 82nd Airborne Division.
JOAX is designed to build knowledge, understanding and interoperability between the UK and US forces, ultimately enabling 16 Air Assault Brigade to seamlessly integrate into an American Division. This would allow the two units to operate quickly and effectively in the event they were to deploy as part of a coalition crisis response force.
The Para’s have been in North Carolina since March 9th. Before the large-scale exercises, a period of what the military call “Interoperability Training” has taken place. This saw units working alongside their counterparts to improve understanding of particular skill-sets and how they can mesh together. Engineers have used each other’s machinery, UK artillery observers have called in fire support from US guns and vice versa.
Although the 3 PARA do the same job as 82nd Airborne, they do it with different skills, drills and kit. This period of training has fostered knowledge between the two.
It will be put to the test during the field exercise, from the 13th to 19th April, beginning with the parachute insertion on the 13th. Thousands of US and UK personnel will jump in two waves, 3 PARA utilizing the C-130 of the RAF. Then follow several days of intensive combat mission exercises.
JOAX is a truly unique mission, managing to combine intensively useful joint training with large-scale spectacle.
Forces TV will be there, bringing this to you live, throughout Monday April 13th.