NORTH YORKSHIRE was the focus for one the largest RAF deployments in the 21st Century when the RAF were given a tough test to prove themselves.

A force of more than 600 Royal Air Force personnel successfully passed a major NATO evaluation at RAF Leeming to prove the Royal Air Force’s ability to conduct operations in challenging conditions.

At the beginning of the month for two weeks, men and women from 135 Expeditionary Air Wing at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire undertook a NATO led evaluation, known as CAPEVAL, to assess the RAF’s ability to support the organisation. Supported by eight Typhoon jet aircraft, the evaluation tested the RAF’s ability to cope with a range of threats from air policing to full war fighting.

The Northern Echo:

Explaining CAPEVAL, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston said: “After a decade away from NATO’s CAPEVAL assessment programme, the RAF’s Typhoon Force has provided NATO with clear evidence of its ability to operate to the highest operational standards, under highly testing conditions.”

He added: “The successful CAPEVAL outcome proves the RAF’s ability to deploy a potent fighting force and reinforces the RAF’s and the UK’s commitment to NATO, and confirming our ability to work effectively alongside our NATO allies.”

While based at RAF Leeming, 135 Expeditionary Air Wing comprised men and women from across the RAF with a range of skills and experience that included firemen, medics and army explosive ordnance disposal. The Expeditionary Air Wing was also supported by the eight Typhoon jets from Numbers 1(Fighter) and II (Army Cooperation) Squadrons based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and Number 1 Squadron RAF Regiment.

The Northern Echo:

It was scrutinised by more than 100 trained evaluators representing a range of nations from across NATO.

Command officer of 135 Expeditionary Air Wing, Group Captain Andrew Coe said: “One of the major challenges one faces when deploying 600 personnel from across different parts of the RAF is the ability to work together as an effective team. This we have achieved over the last few weeks and 135 Expeditionary Air Wing have been forged into an effective fighting unit.

“I am delighted by the commitment and professionalism of my team. They have proved themselves in austere and challenging conditions that included fighting in a simulated chemical, biological and nuclear environment. Our logistical chain has also been tested to the max and we have proved our ability to operate and sustain a large force from a deployed location.”

At more than 1,000 personnel, representing all those participating and supporting, CAPEVAL is the largest single RAF deployment since the start of Operation HERRICK in Iraq in 2003. The RAF’s performance in this strategically important assessment demonstrates both its war fighting prowess and deep commitment the NATO Alliance.

The exercise also provided a feast for plane spotters with the high performance jets displaying their awesome power. On several occasions the Typhoons took off in an almost vertical climb from the runway, disappearing into the blue skies above.