Hebrides to Host Element of Largest Military Exercise in Europe

Pictured: HMS Albion at Loch Ewe during a previous Joint Warrior Exercise.

The Western Isles are set to host elements of a major UK-led multinational exercise next week when Exercise Joint Warrior gets underway.

One of the largest military exercises of its kind in Europe, Joint Warrior will run from October 4-15, with several of the participating vessels operating in the Sea of Hebrides and the Minches and some of the aircraft operating out of Stornoway Airport.

Eleven nations, (ten NATO and one non-NATO) will take part, bringing 28 warships, two submarines, 81 aircraft and over 6,000 military personnel including 130 ground troops to military ranges across the country and to maritime exercise areas off the East, West and North Coasts of Scotland.

The exercise, which takes place twice a year, in the spring and autumn, is designed, planned and delivered by the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) based at Northwood in London who will deploy to HM Naval Base Clyde to coordinate events during the fortnight.

Joint Warrior 20-02 will form part of a wider “Groupex”, which will run from 21 September to 15 October 20.

This is the UK Carrier Strike Group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth with training taking place mainly off the East Coast of Scotland.

Exercise activity will include:

Thirty naval units from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK and the USA participating around the Scottish Coast.

French Ship Tonnerre pictured at a previous Joint Warrior exercise.

A total of 81 aircraft will take part in the exercise with some of them operating from RAF Lossiemouth, Prestwick Airport (previously HMS Gannet) and Stornoway Airport.

Cape Wrath Weapons Range in the North of Scotland being used for joint firing activity.

Freedom of Navigation exercise in the Moray Firth involving small craft and air defence activity.

GPS denial operations off the West coast of Scotland.

The operations will be conducted at limited periods each day and the relevant authorities, especially maritime and aviation, have been involved in the planning process and relevant safeguards have been put in place.

Exercise Joint Warrior is linked directly with the NATO Military Training Exercise Programme and brings together all three UK Armed Forces – the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air force – along with the other participating countries, to provide high quality training opportunities and improve joint operations between the UK and its allies.

The scenario of the exercise will mirror a broad range of crisis and conflict situations which could realistically be experienced in real-world operations.

Over the fortnight, participants will be faced with a period of increasing political and military tensions, along with a huge range of realistic military tasks such as: intelligence gathering and reconnaissance; anti-smuggling and counter-terrorism operations; humanitarian assistance and evacuation operations.

All units involved will observe current Covid-19 guidelines and a wide range of mitigation measures to reduce the impact and risks have been put in place, including limited port visits by UK and allied units and then only for operational and logistical reasons.

Exercise planning staff have liaised with a wide variety of communities and organisations ahead of Joint Warrior in order to minimise the impact of military activity. 

Organisations consulted include: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA); National Air Traffic Services (NATS); The Highlands and Islands Airports Authority; Scottish and Northern Irish fishery organisations; and several environmental agencies and groups.

Further information on Exercise Joint Warrior, including notices to mariners and impact statements, can be found by visiting Queen’s Harbour Master Clyde’s page on the Royal Navy website here.