The UK Armed Forces routinely participate in international defence exercises with allies and partners across the globe. In 2018 the UK is due to take part in more than 25 major international exercises and a similar number are planned for 2019. International defence exercises vary significantly in scale, complexity and the number of contributing nations, but all are focused upon developing interoperability with our allies and partners. At the cornerstone of our exercise programme are NATO, the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) Partner Nations and the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) alliance between the UK and France. Discrete bilateral defence activity with nations outside of these alliances also makes up part of the international programme and supports wider Defence Engagement.
Major NATO exercise activity in 2018 and 2019 centres on development of the NATO Response Force and the ability of contributing nations to respond quickly to an international crisis. Exercises will take place in the US and across Europe in Land, Maritime and Air domains. Most notably, Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE in November 2018 will test the ability of NATO to respond to an Article V situation in Scandinavia, involving multinational forces totalling 35,000 personnel. The UK will contribute a maritime task group, an air component and a brigade sized land force. An annual Baltic Operations Exercise focuses on the ability of NATO forces to work collectively in the protection of nations across the Baltic region. It routinely involves over 5,000 personnel from 17 nations and includes participation by up to 40 warships and submarines and over 60 aircraft.
The JEF, for which the UK is the framework nation, also exercises throughout the year to develop the ability of partner nations to respond rapidly and work together. Exercise JOINT WARRIOR is the annual major exercise which involves more than 10,000 personnel from seven partner nations, the next of which is scheduled for April 2018. In addition, the JEF Maritime component and amphibious task group also conduct an annual major exercise, which in autumn 2018 will take place in the North and Baltic Seas.
The UK and French CJEF will conduct five major exercises during 2018-19. These will include the testing and live fire exercising of a Combined Joint Task Force involving components from the maritime, land and air environments. In addition, frequent command planning exercises are scheduled to develop and enhance working practices within Combined Operational Headquarters.
In addition to the major defence international partnerships, significant bilateral exercise activity is also planned over this period. Joint training with the US makes up a significant proportion of the exercise programme and includes aircraft carrier, fighter jet and Divisional level land forces exercises. The Ministry of Defence’s largest exercise of 2018 will be Exercise SAIF SAREEA in Oman, involving more than 6,000 UK personnel, working alongside the Omani Armed Forces, and will train the UK’s high readiness forces in the full scope of defence activities. UK forces will include an Army Brigade, an RAF Air Wing with Typhoon fighter jets and support transport aircraft and a Maritime Task Group made up of a Royal Marines unit and Royal Navy amphibious warships.