Royal Air Force personnel and aircraft are taking part in a major NATO exercise in North Macedonia. The annual multinational exercise, known as Exercise Swift Response, covers eight countries in three regions this year.
The exercise, covering the Arctic, the Balkans and the Baltic region, involves around 9,000 members of the armed forces of 17 NATO and partner countries. The RAF focuses on North Macedonia, where it has trained with forces from North Macedonia, the United States, Italy, France, Montenegro, Albania and Greece.
Up to 45 aircraft operated in the training area, with the Air Force providing C-17 Globemasters, C-130J Hercules, Typhoons, Chinooks and a variety of RAF specialists. The exercise began with a high-altitude, low-altitude parachute jump from a C-17 Globemaster – the first-ever long-range, high-altitude parachute insertion by a British C-17.
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The reconnaissance experts took off from RAF Brize Norton before jumping 18,000 feet above the Krivolak training area in North Macedonia. Once on the ground, they took to the rugged landscape.
Once the Pathfinders secured the drop zone, 180 British soldiers and 400 Italian paratroopers parachuted in from an RAF C-130J Hercules. Meanwhile, RAF Chinooks delivered more troops and light guns for the Parachute Regiment.
The Hercules remained in North Macedonia and made several low-altitude parachute drops of paratroopers into the exercise area. They also dropped parachutes of heavy equipment including quads, water and rations to support ground troops.
As the exercise continued, Allied forces had to defend their positions and attack the enemy. They were supported by Typhoon jets that came from Romania.
The exercise aimed to develop capabilities and relationships in the region, while demonstrating NATO’s ability to respond quickly to international crises. The action in North Macedonia is one element of a larger exercise, with four multinational forces under the leadership of U.S. Army Europe and Africa conducting simultaneous training for airborne operations across the Europe – from the Far North to the Caucasus.