The British Army’s Apache attack helicopters have fired Hellfire missiles inside the Arctic Circle for the first time.
CAPTION: An Apache helicopter from 656 Squadron, 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, on exercise within the Arctic Circle. British Army photo.
Battling temperatures as low as -30°C and white-out flying conditions, 656 Squadron, 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, was training in the far north of Norway.
Together with RAF Chinook and Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters, 656 Squadron was preparing for Exercise Cold Response in March, which will involve 14,000 troops from 10 nations to test the ability of NATO forces to operate together in the Arctic.
For 656 Squadron, the deployment was focused on proving its warfighting ability after the Apache made its Arctic debut early last year.
Officer Commanding 656 Squadron Major Huw Raikes said, last year’s exercise was about learning how to operate the Apache in the Arctic.
“The extreme cold presents unique differences to how we normally conduct our business, but we have developed ways to overcome the human, engineering and flying challenges,” Major Huw Raikes said.
“This year we have established new and innovative ways to fight the aircraft.
“This has relied immensely on the support of the Royal Navy’s Commando Helicopter Force, who have a long experience of operating in the Arctic that has been generously shared.”
He said firing Hellfire missiles for the first time was a significant milestone in proving the capability of the aircraft in this environment.
“This is an achievement that everyone in the squadron has contributed to and can be rightly proud of.
“We’re now looking forward to flying in support of the Royal Marines and our NATO partners on Exercise Cold Response.”
This recent live-fire shoot saw groundcrew establish a forward arming and refuelling point (FARP) – the military equivalent of a Formula 1 pit stop – to load missiles and 30mm cannon ammunition on to Apaches.
Britain’s Apache helicopters are able to carry up to 16 Hellfires – a precision missile used to strike ground and maritime targets.
Wildcat battlefield reconnaissance helicopters provided target identification and designation with their powerful suite of sensors, with the missiles fired at barges both moored and moving in the Norwegian Sea.
656 Squadron maintains Apaches on standby to provide an aviation strike capability to the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade, the British military’s extreme cold-weather warfare specialists.