December 6 2013 Latest news:
Friday, August 23, 2013
Afghanistan-bound soldiers who fly the Apache attack helicopter had the chance to let rip at a Norfolk training base as they carried out the first live firing of a 30mm cannon.
Exercise Pashtun Sword saw 654 Squadron, 4 Regiment Army Corps use the cannon for the first time at the Stanford Training Area near Thetford, known as STANTA.
Ground crews carried out the military equivalent of a Formula One pit-stop on the Apache, by rearming and refuelling at speed.
The unit, based at nearby Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk, leave for Helmand Province next month.
All previous live training for the crews had taken place at Otterburn in Northumberland and Castlemartin in Wales.
Major Nick English, officer commanding 654 Squadron, said: “We’ve been working towards this tour since March, including training in California and with the units we will deploy with. This exercise is a final polish of our individual skills and drills to ensure we are ready to go.
“It’s great to use STANTA because it’s on our backdoor and we can train while staying at home in Wattisham. The logistics are easier and it’s important to give everyone as much time as possible with their families before we go away for four months.”
The Apache’s role in Afghanistan is to protect troops on the ground, other helicopters and land convoys and provide a near all-weather precision strike capability.
Maj English said: “This is the squadron’s fourth tour and our role has changed as Afghan forces have taken full responsibility for security.
“Apaches are flying fewer missions in support of troops on the ground, because the Afghans have to be able to operate with the capabilities they will have after international troops withdraw.”