Royal Marines performed a stunning sunset parachute drop over Denmark as the UK’s key military deployment of the spring moves up a gear.
Leaping from just 800 feet, the men of the elite Pre-Landing Force, 30 Commando, landed outside the small town of Varde in western Jutland.
After a 90-minute flight in a C130 Hercules from RAF Brize Norton, the Plymouth-based commandos jumped over their dropzone using special low-level parachutes, landing on their target with pinpoint accuracy at twilight.
The drop is just one element in the opening stages of the two-month-long Baltic Protector deployment, led by Britain and involving more than half a dozen nations which border either the Baltic or North Seas.
With a cluster of British vessels at its heart (flagship HMS Albion, support ship RFA Lyme Bay, helicopter support vessel RFA Argus, frigate HMS Kent and military ferry MV Hurst Point, numerous helicopters and hundreds of Royal Marines spearheaded by 45 Commando from Arbroath in Scotland), the deployment is the biggest test yet of the Joint Expeditionary Force.
The force was established seven years ago to demonstrate the resolve of the military of northern European nations to operate side-by-side in the event of an international incident or crisis – everything from responding to a natural disaster through to conflict.
Baltic Protector has opened with the fortnight-long Danex (Danish exercise), a combination of amphibious operations off the coast of Jutland around Esbjerg, plus ground ‘fighting’ in the Danes’ exercise areas nearby, where Royal Marines have been practising urban combat and defending convoys from ambushes.
As the name suggests, the Pre-Landing Force is a small team of commandos which sneaks ashore ahead of a large-scale invasion, gathering intelligence and observing enemy positions and movements, feeding the information back to the main assault force.
The small teams are typically sent in by small inflatable boats, but they also retain the ability to parachute in.
The force – part of 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group – traces its history back to World War 2 and an elite unit founded by James Bond creator Ian Fleming to roam behind enemy lines and gather key intelligence – information which played a vital role in subsequent operations, including the D-Day landings.