British Army steps up “Askari Thunder”


The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) recently renewed a long-standing agreement with the Kenyan Government that allows six British infantry battalions per year to carry out four-week exercises in Kenya’s arid Great Rift Valley.

The training gives the soldiers the opportunity to carry out live firing in a wide variety of challenging hot and high climatic conditions. The exercises are run by the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) based at Kifaru Camp in Nairobi, and Nanyuki Showground Camp (NSC), 200 km north of capital. The Army’s Main Operating Base during the exercise is at MOB SIMBA in the Archers Post training area, 80 km north of NSC.

The level of training has more than doubled since last year under the new series of exercises codenamed ‘Askari Thunder’ to better reflect current operational deployments. They are designed to afford infantry battalion’s the chance to work alongside the engineers, medics and logisticians that make up their battle group. Known as Hybrid Foundation Training, the exercises involve up to one thousand troops, begin with individual role specific training and culminate in a Battle Group-size exercise. The final element includes local Kenyan people assuming the roles of insurgents and aid workers with tribal and ethnic and religious tensions.

Air support for the exercises is provided by a permanent detachment of RAF Puma HC.1s under the umbrella of Joint Helicopter Force (Kenya) (JHF(K)) based at the Kenya Air Force’s Laikipia Air Base. Deployments of Royal Navy Sea Kings or Army Air Corps Lynx use the exercises for pre-deployment training to Afghanistan and provide additional air support.

In August last year, SAAB was awarded a contract by the UK MoD to deliver a Battle Group size instrumented Deployable Tactical Engagement Simulation (DTES) capability in support of the exercises in Kenya. The capability provides the only realistic force-on-force training for testing a unit’s understanding of Tactics, Techniques and Procedures and qualifying their competence at all levels through the use of a live enemy. DTES provides the sole means for commanders to objectively assess the standard achieved by exercising Units during manoeuvre training.

Each soldier wears a vest with a GPS tracker and laser detection system built into it. Their personal weapons are fitted with a Small Arms Transmitter (SAT) to monitor the exact handling and skill of the gunner in real time and for accurate after action review (AAR). During AAR recorded data from each individual firing-aiming hits can be analysed for procedural training. All the vehicles used in the exercise are also fitted with the system which has both anti-tank and IED capabilities, the latter includes booby trap and suicide bomber simulations.

SAAB provides the technical support for the DTES system and the training analysts for the AAR that includes video and observer controllers input on laptops within an hour of the ENDEX. The instrumented data is relayed via six portable base stations that cover the 360 square kilometres of the exercise area.