Friday, May 15, 2009
The biggest air and land training exercise staged abroad by British forces is taking place in the Czech republic.
It is a unique training opportunity for the soldiers of One UK Armoured Division, the traditional powerhouse of the British army.
Around 1,800 British troops and several hundred Czechs, Danes and Dutch are taking part.
The idea is to provide British troops with a realistic opportunity to practice live firing in the field - and make their mistakes here instead of on the frontline.
British forces have taken over a third of Czech airspace, which would be impossible in the UK where the skies are too congested.
Packing a punch to defeat the enemy has always been the role of the division I am on exercise with.
But to out-fox the Taliban they are weaving advanced computer technology into their battle plan to ensure their live firing is as accurate as possible.
They are planning a mock attack in an imaginary computerised village before live fire is called in on the front line.
Having teams of soldiers draw up these kinds of scenarios then being able to respond as if for real has never been done by UK forces abroad on this scale before.
To understand the amount of airspace and land at the disposal of the British army we flew across the Czech countryside in a 'Hip' helicopter.
Beneath us were vast swathes of countryside. The British troops could be seen nestled in pockets amongst the seemingly never-ending canvas of fir trees.
Their commander Major General Adrian Bradshaw says they must continue to change and adapt to meet the challenges ahead in Afghanistan.
He said: "Over the last few years the entire army has been re-orientating to what we call hybrid warfare dealing with the war amongst the people and this headquarters is in that process of transformation."
After the three-week exercise they are preparing to return to their base in Germany - knowing within months their lives and many others will depend on getting it right first time.