Exercise Swift Pirate: RAF Trains For Humanitarian Deployments

The aim of Exercise Swift Pirate is to test personnel in loading and offloading freight and passengers from aircraft under pressure.

Exercise Swift Pirate has given Royal Air Force personnel the chance to put their skills into practice ahead of future humanitarian deployments.  

Personnel from 1 Air Mobility Wing, the RAF's main capability to move anything, anywhere in the world, were tested on their ability to deploy at short notice.

The training exercise at RAF Wittering saw the squadron facing a range of scenarios, from loading a Land Rover onto a Globemaster C-17 heavy aircraft to escorting personnel onto an aircraft while the engines stayed running.

Squadron Leader Maddie Smith, Officer Commanding, UK Mobile Air Movements Squadron, told Forces News that the training was "really important" and critical in ensuring they can operate smoothly under pressure.

"That pressure can come from so many different angles.

"For example, if it's really hot where we are operating, we need to ensure everyone knows what they're doing so we can smoothly do the job without any risk of heat exhaustion.

"That can also translate to a 'hot' environment [where] there's a threat or an intelligence risk, so we want to get in do our job and get out safely protecting our equipment and our people as much as possible."

The squadron is well equipped to deploy humanitarian aid to countries in need with its C-17 Globemaster.

1 Air mobility wing on RAF C-17 Globemaster Exercise Swift Pirate Practice 03062021 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Personnel on board RAF C-17 Globemaster during Exercise Swift Pirate.

The C-17 is a heavy-lift strategic transport aircraft able to lift large, complex items of equipment like Chinook helicopters, military vehicles and other heavy specialist items. 

They were involved in helping out in cyclone-stricken Mozambique in 2019, and the Caribbean, badly affected by hurricanes, in 2017 and, most recently they sent vital supplies of ventilators and oxygen cylinders to India as the country battles against the new COVID variant.

Operation Swift Pirate also includes a significant human security angle.

With the help of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office they're well equipped to help civilians caught in harsh environments.

Squadron Leader Katherine Ingram, Second-In-Command, 1 Air Mobility Wing, said: "As UK military everybody is responsible for recognising any human rights violations and reporting and responding accordingly.

"Some of the major themes are human trafficking, modern-day slavery, conflict-related sexual violence and the use of children in warfare.

"It's giving everybody an understanding of what is going on, what could be both at the UK and abroad," she said.

The squadron will return to its home base at RAF Brize Norton and will remain on high readiness ready to respond at short notice.