RAF Chinooks support Exercise Vigilant Fox in Finland

Avatar for Glenn SandsBy Glenn Sands | August 2, 2022

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 37 seconds.

RAF Chinooks of 27 Squadron from RAF Odiham, U.K., served alongside U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawks and NH90s from Finland, to conduct mixed formation training to support Heliborne Assault Force scenarios as part of Exercise Vigilant Fox.   

The exercise was a four-day training deployment for C Company, 2 RIFLES, the Finnish Karelian Brigade and the Jaeger Guard Regiment. Two RAF Chinooks supported the exercise. Preparations began with three days of joint ground training interspersed with two-, three- and four-ship training sorties. The joint formations were flown at low-level and into confined areas in order to allow the pilots to refresh their skills, and ensure all participating aircrews were to the same operating standards. 

The helicopter support for the exercise comprised two RAF CH-47s, two U.S. Army UH-60s and one Finish Army Aviation NH90. 

On the first day of the exercise a large heliborne assault force insertion of British Army troops of C Coy into the training area at Niinisalo, Western Finland took place with Finnish and British units being ‘opposed’ by the Finnish Pori Brigade with an attached U.S. Cavalry troop.

Following this air assault, aircrews participated in staging operations, aviation assaults and defensive support missions which included rapid planning and integration within an evolving tactical ground scenario. Observations and improvements in procedures and tactical manoeuvres were shared between nations in comprehensive briefing and debriefing.

Chinook pilot and Detachment Commander Flight Lieutenant Henry said: “The Finish Army and U.S. Army aviators were top class. After a couple of briefs, it was like working with another familiar, they just use different equipment. Carrying out complicated tactical training far away from home in mixed formations is a formidable demonstration of capability. We now know that U.S., Finish and British support helicopters can work seamlessly together whenever the need arises.”

The RAF Chinooks arrived in Estonia in early July as part of Aviation Task Force 3, taking over from a Puma detachment, which had been based in Lithuania for six weeks. The presence of the Aviation Task Force in the Baltic region integrates U.K. support helicopters with NATO allies and partners’ exercises over the summer training period.

RAF Chinooks are based at Amari Air Base, Estonia to support the British-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Estonia. MOD Photo

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: “Exercise Vigilant Fox has demonstrated the strength and interoperability of our armed forces with our U.S. and Finnish allies and reaffirms our commitment to the defence and security of the Baltic Sea region.”

Wing Commander Stephen Boyle, Defence Attaché, British Embassy Finland, said: “Our soldiers, sailors and aviators have received a warm welcome in Finland over the last few months. Exercise Vigilant Fox is the latest activity in an ongoing series of events across the domains.”

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