We'll go in order of seniority today, which means the Royal Navy gets to go first.
And we'll start with a short video giving a bit of insight into the DISTEX (Disaster relief training exercise) training that occurs at the HMS Raleigh shore establishment in Torpoint, Cornwall. DISTEX is designed to prepare Royal Navy personnel for the challenges they may face when responding to a disaster situation such as the aftermath of a hurricane hitting a Caribbean island;
Next up a look into Exercise Bright Diamond, which is a 3-day confirmation period that marks the end of the 10 week initial naval training course at HMS Raleigh. Bright Diamond was introduced in July of 2011 and starts with the trainees being air lifted by Merlin helicopter to the exercise area. Over the course of the next 3 days and two nights their skills are put to the test on both land and sea based components, with the sea based exercise taking place on HMS Brecon, a former Hunt-class Mine Countermeasures Vessel;
Next I've rustled up a somewhat old video, but I believe still relevant (correct me if I'm wrong anyone), of the Royal Navy's Damage Repair Instructional Unit (DRIU), otherwise known as "Havoc" (and what an apt name by the looks of it!). The DRIU is situated at HMS Excellent on Whale Island, Portsmouth, and is used to simulate three decks (one open air deck, two interior decks) of a damaged vessel. Water can be pumped in through a variety of simulated damage points on the two interior decks, requiring trainees inside to assess and then control the damage. Lights can be shut off, battle noise can be added, and the unit can be rocked up to 15 degrees side to side in order to simulate realistic conditions on board a damaged ship. The video will explain more in much greater detail;
In keeping with that theme of damage control, a short video that gives an admittedly brief look at the Royal Navy's firefighting training facility, also based at HMS Excellent;
Next, two videos from late 2011, when the Royal Navy unveiled its new Maritime Composite Training System (MCTS). The MCTS was built by BAE Systems at a cost of £108 million and covers two sites, one in Portsmouth, and the other just a few minutes down the road at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, Hampshire.
The MCTS utilises movable consoles, each one laid out to represent a work station on a Royal Navy vessel. As a result the consoles can be arranged to represent everything from the interior layout of most modern ships operations rooms (including the new Queen Elizabeth class carriers) or something more modest like a single, stand alone workstation.
This facility allows the Navy to train and test personnel individually, in small groups, or even all the way up to almost an entire ships crew. In this regard the Royal Navy is astutely tapping into a significant advantage that it has training wise over the other two services, in that a lot of the combat operations of a warship like a Type 45 Destroyer are controlled from consoles anyway, so this kind of synthetic training represents a less radical departure from reality than say infantrymen training inside on an electronic range;
We've reached the final Navy video for today. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be that many videos online covering Royal Navy live firings, exercises, drills and the like. By comparison if you look up almost anything army related and you'll find a thousand and one videos of stuff getting shot, blown up and run over. But we'll get to that later!
For now we leave the waves behind with a video some bloke put together of his time on the Type 23 Frigate HMS Sutherland. I have to apologise in advance on his behalf for his choice of music, as he's clearly not here to defend his selection of Iron Maiden's "Run to the Hills". There's always the mute button I guess. Anyway, what else can I say at this point other than "Four Five; Engage!";
Moving on down the ladder, we come to the army. First up, a bit of a warm up I think, courtesy of the Royal Artillery on exercise with their light guns. The only problem is the army disabled embedding of the video so you'll have to click on this link to go and watch it.
Next, a series of four videos that someone recorded at Salisbury Plain during one of the armies live firing demonstrations. Now technically speaking it's a demonstration and not a training exercise, but as the things being demonstrated are the types of things that the soldiers train for on the Plain, I think that qualifies it to fit in with our "training" theme.
I'll give you a bit of blurb before each video so those of you in a rush can jump to the videos that interest you the most, but I do highly recommend sitting down and watching them all at some point, as the cumulative time is under 30 minutes. Again, I'm going to have to provide you with links to the YouTube videos, because the poster has disabled embedding.
The first video shows a variety of infantry weapons being fired including General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) in the sustained fire role, a section of infantry showing off its collective firepower, a Javelin anti-tank weapon in top attack mode, a Milan anti-tank weapon, a vehicle mounted Grenade launcher, and all followed by an old Sabre armoured vehicle (I suspect this was filmed pre-2004) engaging targets with its 30mm gun; Link to Part 1.
Part 2 starts with vehicle mounted mortars firing live rounds, then putting down a quite impressive smoke screen in short order. This is followed by what appear to be RAF Jaguars (it's very difficult to tell) making a few passes and firing rockets. After the aircraft (see what I did there) come the tanks. A Challenger tank puts on a truly impressive display, firing a number of rounds at targets distributed across the range in rapid succession. You really get a sense of just how deadly a modern tank like this is just from watching this short sequence.
The Challenger then moves on to firing a four round smoke screen at long range with duly impressive results, before being joined by a second Challenger for a bit more live round fun. There's a brief moment when they look like they're leaving the range, but keep watching because there is a bit more rapid firing to be done before it's all over; Link to Part 2.
Part 3 starts abruptly with a Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) mullering a small enemy position with its machine gun as it charges forward, then keeping the position suppressed as soldiers exit the vehicle and attack a trench position. The Warrior then stays to provide fire support for the dismounted section.
That's followed by two warriors using their 30mm cannon plus their machine guns to reduce a small earth position into nothing but a pile of... earth. They then demonstrate their machine guns against pop up infantry targets, followed by a rather risky looking provision of close support fire to some dismounted men.
The Warriors then flex their 30mm muscles at slightly longer ranges, hammering the crap out of various targets, along with another Sabre right at the end; Link to Part 3.
Part 4 is where it's all brought together in one harmonious and simultaneous release of firepower. As a simulated enemy "approaches", AS90 self propelled guns open up at long range. We get a few live fire rounds from a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and even an Apache shows up to pitch in with its 30mm gun, along with a couple of ground launched Milan for good measure to take out the enemies recce elements. Challengers then open up at long range to slow the enemy down some more.
At this point the enemy forces vanguard hypothetically comes into view and every single direct fire weapon our lot have at their disposal opens up, leaving the "enemy" very definitely in bad shape. Sadly the video ends with a sequence purporting to be machine guns harassing the "enemy" movements at night using long ranged fire, but the minute I saw it I recognised it as being footage taken from another video of a large civilian machine gun shoot in Cheyenne Wells, Colorado, which I've included for those of you who want to watch almost 7 minutes of constant machine gun fire putting tracers through the night sky; Link to Part 4.
And the Cheyenne Wells shoot;
Which can only mean one thing, that we're now done with the army and we're off to join biggles and co as they ride through the skies. Or in other words, we finish with some videos of the RAF.
This first video is a combination of footage put together by students on the RAF's Tactics and Weapons Course, flying BAE Hawk trainers out of RAF Valley. It includes a bit of low level flying, formation flying, some mock dogfighting, and some weapons training against ground targets at the RAF Pembrey sands air weapons range in Wales;
Sticking with Wales and a series of four videos (really one video split into four parts) of another Hawk from Valley, this time exclusively from the cockpit, ducking and diving through the Welsh mountains.
This aircraft is going around the "Mach Loop", the informal name for a section of the Low Flying Area 7 (LFA 7, which is basically "Wales"). The Mach Loop is almost like an aerial race track for aircraft, weaving between the hills and passing over sparsely populated fields.
At speeds of up to 450 knots.
At altitudes as low as 250 feet.
It's used by both RAF pilots and pilots from allied air forces, most commonly US aircraft based in the UK, to practice high speed low level flying. And trust me, if you ever wanted a reason to convince yourself you made the right choice by not joining the air force after you finished University (assuming that unlike me you went to University in the first place), then this is it. Because believe me when I tell you, you'll watch these videos and your first response is likely to be similar to mine when I first watched them; f**k that!
Of course if you really want to create a queasy feeling in your stomach, just remember that C-130 Hercules transports are a reasonably common sight on the Mach Loop. Watch the video, then imagine doing all that as a Hercules pilot. Or worse, sitting in the back of one, knowing full well what's going on outside;
Sick bag anyone?