Young Eagle main exercise now underway

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The main live fire event of Exercise Young Eagle, the annual airborne force preparation undertaking, is currently underway at the South African Army Combat Training Centre at Lohatlha in the Northern Cape. The main force of 1 Parachute Battalion landed on the training area overnight under silk and will today be joined by the heliborne air assault troops of 6 SA Infantry Battalion.

They will engage in a number of battalion attacks to support a United Nations Chapter VII offensive intervention scenario, brigade commander Brigadier General Lawrence Smith told reporters at an open day on Friday. The goal is “to conduct continuation training with the airborne capability and achieve a high level of combat readiness.” The focus is on quality training, command-and-control, staff procedures at all levels, as well as doctrine, technical kills, techniques and procedures.

Smith notes some 1903 personnel, excluding aircrew, are taking part in this year’ event. Of these 1715 were male and 179 women. Army personnel were the bulk at 1757 with 70 from the SA Air Force (SAAF), 65 from the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) and two from the SA Navy. “They are scenario planners with the Exercise Control staff,” Smith said of the naval presence. On strength as well are 36 Reserve Force personnel and 245 young soldiers of last year’s Military Skills Development System intake.

Smith noted in his briefing planning for the pedagogic exercise began as early as April last year peaking with a Command Post Exercise last month to wargame the event. The current exercise commenced February 1 with mobilisation and joint training at the General de Wet training area at De Brug near Bloemfontein. This ended Thursday, allowing the main exercise to kick off overnight.

Other than the parachute battalion, the 44 Parachute Regiment pathfinder platoon and 6SAI, units supporting Young Eagle include 4 Artillery Regiment (41 Battery, 120mm mortar), 10 Air Defence Artillery Regiment (104 Battery, Starstreak very short range air defence system), 2 Field Engineer Regiment (one squadron), 1 SA tactical Intelligence Regiment (one squadron), 17 Maintenance Unit (a composite company) and 102 Workshop (a composite company). Also in support is the SAAF 43 Rapid Deployment Air Operations Team, elements of 7 Medical Battalion Group and a platoon of military police from 13 Provost Company.

Air assets supporting the exercise include two Lockheed Martin C130BZ medium transports, a CASA 212, two Douglas C47 turboprop transports, a Cessna C208 Caravan, an AgustaWestland A109 light utility helicopter (LUH), two Eurocopter BK117 LUH and four Denel M1 Oryx medium utility helicopters. Also on the apron since last Thursday is two BAE Systems Hawk Mk120 lead-in fighter trainers. They were joined yesterday by some SAAB Gripen advanced light fighter aircraft. These will conduct airstrikes on targets in support of the battalion attacks. Notable in its absence is the Denel CSH2A Rooivalk combat support helicopter. Smith confirmed they were “not available” but would not say why.

Costs for the exercise amount to R6.5 million for allowances, R900 000 for fuel, R4.8 million for rations and R2.4 million for commodities. The cost of the aircraft and ammunition consumed is still “to be determined.”



Pic: 1 Parachute Battalion paratroops exit two C130 during a demonstration on Friday. The unit turns 50 on April 1.