Royal Air Force personnel and aircraft take part in a major NATO exercise in North Macedonia. The annual multinational exercise, known as Exercise Swift Response, includes eight countries in three regions this year.
The exercise, which spans the Arctic, Balkans and Baltic States, will involve approximately 9,000 military personnel from 17 Allied and Partner nations. The RAF is concentrated in North Macedonia, where it has trained with forces from North Macedonia, the US, Italy, France, Montenegro, Albania and Greece.
Up to 45 aircraft are deployed in the exercise 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-opening parachute jump from a C-17 Globemaster – the first-ever long-range, high-altitude parachute deployment by a British C-17.
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The reconnaissance experts took off from RAF Brize Norton before dropping in at an altitude of 18,000ft over the Krivolak training area in North Macedonia. Once on the ground, they secured a foothold in the rugged landscape.
After the Pathfinders secured the landing zone, 180 British soldiers and 400 Italian paratroopers parachuted from an RAF C-130J Hercules. Meanwhile, RAF Chinooks were supplying more troops and light guns for the Parachute Regiment.
The Hercules remained in North Macedonia and conducted several low-altitude parachute drops into the training area. They also parachuted in heavy equipment including quads, water and rations to support troops on the ground.
As the exercise progressed, the Allies had to defend their positions and attack the enemy. They were supported by Typhoon jets flying in from Romania.
The exercise was designed to build capabilities and relationships in the region while demonstrating NATO’s ability to respond rapidly to international crises. The action in North Macedonia is one element of a broader exercise in which four multinational forces led by US Army Europe and Africa are conducting simultaneous training for airborne operations across Europe – from the far north to the Caucasus.
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