Armed Forces Day 2020

What Awesome Things Have UK's Armed Forces Been Up To In 2020?

COVID-19 is not going to stop our armed forces

Our Armed Forces are the greatest, we all know that, but did you know that while the country has been coping with lockdown, serving personnel have been continuing with their day jobs?

The COVID-19 Response 

UK Armed Forces personnel have played a pivotal role in the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have been assisting the NHS by setting up Nightingale hospitals - temporary critical care hospitals set up in response to the pandemic - staffing mobile Coronavirus testing units, supporting ambulance services and delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves.

Plus they have taken on epic challenges to raise money for NHS charities.

Find out more - Coronavirus: What The Military's Doing To Fight COVID-19

Operation TOSCA 

In Cyprus, British personnel continue to patrol the UN buffer zone between the Turkish north and Greek Cypriot south. 

A total of 240 troops from 7 RIFLES and 5 Royal Regiment of Fusiliers are deployed to Cyprus for the UN peacekeeping mission.

It is Op TOSCA's largest deployment of reserves ever.

Barracks life in Nicosia has changed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, with troops now required to follow social distancing guidelines. 

In Northern Ireland, 2nd Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment is training before deploying on Op TOSCA 33 in three months.

Find out more - What's It Like Deployed To Cyprus During The Coronavirus Pandemic?

Exercise BALTOPS 

First major European maritime exercise since the Coronavirus outbreak went ahead at the beginning of June.

Exercise BALTOPS, the largest military exercise of 2020 in European waters, saw Royal Navy vessels HMS Kent and HMS Ramsey taking part in a four-day tactical role-playing exercise. 

Credit: Royal Navy

HMS Kent was given an enemy state role in the exercise assigned to the ‘Orange Forces’ from the fictional state of Bothnia, providing her crew with a unique set of challenges. Above water warfare specialist Able Seaman Jonathan Mills said: 

"Playing the bad guys for a change rather than ourselves has been good. 

"It really forced us to look at how we normally do things, then doing something sneaky instead."

Find out more - Navy Vessels HMS Kent And HMS Ramsay Wrap Up NATO Exercise

Operation TORAL

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland spent June in Cumbria continuing their preparations for their upcoming tour of Afghanistan. 

At Warcop Training Area, 2 SCOTS have been practising their section defence drills ahead of their deployment on Operation Toral later in the year. 

The troops have also been sharpening their mounted firing skills - vital for when operating the Foxhound vehicle in the country. 

Corporal Anthony Boyle told Forces News: 

"It's extremely important to obviously train in these aspects. 

"We've got a lot of guys [who] just came through [Infantry Training Centre] Catterick, straight into our battalion, so we need to, obviously, get them up to scratch before we actually deploy." 

The Fusiliers will be part of the NATO effort helping to provide security against insurgents around the capital Kabul and developing the skills of Afghan forces.

Find out more - 2 SCOTS Hone Skills Ahead Of Afghanistan Deployment

Terrorism Mission In Mali

The UK has extended its military support to the French-led counter-terrorism mission based in Mali. 

Three RAF Chinooks from RAF Odiham and 100 personnel will remain in the country where they have been deployed in non-combat roles since 2018.

UK anonymous service personnel in Chinook during Mali deployment - pic used on 120620 CREDIT MOD.jpg
Credit: MOD / RAF Chinooks and personnel have been deployed to Mali since 2018

The mission across the Sahel region is focused on providing long-term stability and tackling the threat from militants linked to groups such as Al-Qaeda or so-called Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh. 

Recently, forces deployed on the mission killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as other high-profile members of the group. 

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said combatting extremism in the Sahel is "vital" for the safety of the wider region, describing it as a "declining security situation".

Find out more - UK Extends Military Support To Counter-Terrorism Mission In Mali

Op KIPION

HMS Montrose has resumed her security mission in the Gulf after what the Royal Navy described as an "MOT and service". 

The Type 23 frigate is normally based in Plymouth but is currently deployed to Bahrain as part of an operation to keep Middle East sea lanes safe and open - Operation Kipion.

HMS Montrose's Wildcat helicopter crew
Credit: Royal Navy

The ship's maintenance included work needed to make sure her machinery and systems are ready for the region's summer, which can see temperatures of up to 50C on the upper deck and even higher in the hangar and engine spaces, which are not air-conditioned.

Find out more - HMS Montrose Resumes Gulf Security Mission

Operation AZOTIZE

Royal Air Force Typhoons intercepted a Russian military aircraft in June for the first time since deploying to Lithuania on a NATO policing mission. 

The RAF scrambled to intercept a Russian IL-20 COOT Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft over the Baltic Sea, as part of their role on Operation Azotize. 

A pilot from 6 Squadron, attached to 135 Expeditionary Air Wing, was on Quick Reaction Alert duty as the scramble was called. 

"The scramble was called to intercept a Russian IL-20 COOT ISR aircraft," they said. 

"The initial scramble was a real shot of adrenaline, but once airborne it was important to remain calm and professional and make the intercept as expeditious as possible to ensure we maintained both the safety and integrity of NATO airspace. 

"This is what all of our training is designed to prepare us for however, at the end of the day it’s just my job." 

Speaking to Forces News, Wing Commander Stu Gwinnutt, 135 EAW Commander said:

"It is great to see all of the training come together in a timely response and a successful NATO Baltic Quick Reaction Alert Air Policing mission."

Find out more - RAF Typhoons In Lithuania Scramble To Intercept Russian Military Aircraft

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