Royal Marines experts in defending against attacks from the air destroyed ‘enemy’ air superiority during a five-day battle across the Mojave Desert. Air Defence Troop of Plymouth-based 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group deployed to California to stress test new tactics as part of the commando element of the newly-formed Littoral Response Group (South). The new response group will focus on world events east of the Suez Canal when it becomes operational next year with the addition of amphibious ships and aircraft.
It is all centred around 40 Commando but specialists from around 3 Commando Brigade also bolt onto the response group to add to its punch, from artillery to armour. Air Defence Troop are part of 30 Commando, the eyes and ears of 3 Commando Brigade who were formed in the Second World War by a team of Naval Intelligence Officers (including Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels). The troop is made up of 53 marines equipped with high velocity missiles and lightweight surface-to-air missiles who defend their commando brethren from enemy air attack on land and around coastlines.
They lead the way in UK Defence in their area of expertise and are embracing new ways of working to counter the threats of a modern era. Along with working with their counterparts from the US Marines’ 2nd and 3rd Low Altitude Air Defence Battalions, Air Defence Troop were tasked with protecting allied forces during a five-day ‘battle’ in the desert which saw commandos work with forces from the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Canada and the USA to defend three urban sprawls from their adversary, made up of US Marines.
It was the finale of two months of exercises, known as Green Dagger, which sharpened the commandos for operations next year at one of the largest military training facilities in the world at the vast US Marine Corps training facility at Twentynine Palms. Air Defence Troop were fed intelligence that their ‘enemy’ were likely to strike hard and fast with their air superiority, using Super Cobra attack helicopters, Osprey tiltrotors and Sea Stallion helicopters. The troop had three teams carefully deployed in positions across the battlefield, ‘destroying’ three Super Cobras and a Sea Stallion in the first few hours of the exercise.
The commandos – with small teams deployed across a wide area – continued to have success, hitting helicopters in the mock battle but also convoys with surface-to-surface missiles. They trialled the MRZR vehicle for their purposes too. The American-made Polaris MRZR-D4 is an ultralight 4×4 off-roader that can carry up to four commandos and reach speeds of 60mph for rapid movement across the battlefield. It is ideally equipped for raiding missions that Royal Marines are now focusing on as part of their modernisation and restructuring, which will ensure they are ready to counter the threats of a modern era. Air Defence used the vehicle to keep moving into positions and hamper ‘enemy’ efforts, eventually forcing them to change tactics with air superiority lost. The troop also helped Charlie Company of 40 Commando take a key position and foiled a counter-attack by their ‘enemy’ and engaging two more Super Cobra helicopters.