British and French paratroopers are training together in a major exercise to demonstrate their ability to operate together.

Exercise Eagles Amarante involved 1,800 troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade and 11e Brigade Parachutiste. Both brigades provide their armies’ rapid reaction forces and are at the forefront of Franco- British military co-operation. Together they form the Interim Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (I-CJEF), which is ready to deploy at short notice on operations anywhere in the world.

The two-week long exercise started on Sunday 27 Sepember 2015 with British and French troops and equipment converging on Wattisham Flying Station. The airfield was used as a forward mounting base for the joint force – built around Colchester-based 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment and 1er Regiment de Chasseurs Parachutistes – to plan and execute missions from.

The ground troops were supported by British and French aircraft, including Apache Attack Helicopters from 4 Regiment Army Air Corps; Merlin, Chinook and Puma support helicopters and Hercules transport aircraft from the RAF; Gazelle and Puma helicopters from Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre; and Transall transport aircraft from the Armee de l’Air.

Their overall challenge was to restore stability to a troubled region, with a key task being a helicopter-borne night raid on Rock Barracks, Woodbridge before the troops parachuted onto the Stanta Ranges in Thetford to assault enemy positions.

Major Chris Prior, second-in-command of 2 PARA, said: “Working with the French is a fantastic opportunity and we are sharing experiences and learning a lot from each other already. We have been bringing the force together at Wattisham, familiarising ourselves with the different equipment we use and planning and rehearsing for the missions to come.”

Major Stephan Cognon, chief of staff of 1er RCP, said: “This training is about improving our ability to work together at all levels, from the planning and decision making to the paratroopers working side-by-side on the ground. If our two brigades are able to work together, it offers a potent option to our political leaders to respond to international crises.”

The partnership is part of the 2010 Lancaster House agreements, which set out closer military and security ties between Britain and France. I-CJEF was validated as ready to deploy in 2013, with Exercise Eagles Amarante part of an ongoing programme of joint training.

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