British Army Apache AH Mk1helicopter

British Army Apache AH Mk1 helicopter pilots and ground crew have completed the two-month long Crimson Eagle exercise in the US as part of the Apache Conversion to Role course.

The exercise, held at the El Centro Naval Air Facility in California and at Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field in Arizona, included aviation environmental training, judgemental training and a live firing phase.

The tactical exercises are designed to enable the pilots to achieve limited combat-ready status and gain working experience in the sort of terrain and altitudes that may be encountered during real-time overseas deployments.

During the aviation environmental and judgemental training exercises, Apache pilots demonstrated expertise in handling the aircraft in mountainous and desert conditions, including dust landings and limited power training during the day and night.

The live firing phase is the final evaluation in weapons handling to ensure pilots achieve live firing qualifications.

Wattisham Station Attack Helicopter Force Chief of Staff lieutenant colonel Peter Bullen said: "Exercise Crimson Eagle is a challenging exercise during which students have had an opportunity to practice skills in a demanding environment with conditions similar to those in Afghanistan."

The pilots will undergo a period of further training prior to completion of the Conversion To Role course after which they will be assigned to one of the Apache squadrons within 16 Air Assault Brigade to gain Limited Combat Ready status as well as wider exposure.

Exercise Crimson Eagle has been conducted nine times in the US by the Army Air Corps since 2006, and the most recent exercise was conducted earlier this year.

The UK Army Apache AH Mk1 fleet consists of 67 aircraft that support UK and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Libya to provide deterrence and close combat attack capabilities for ISAF forces, as well as to perform escort duties for other aircraft.

The Apache AH Mk1 is an all-weather, day and night attack helicopter equipped with a 30mm chain gun, rockets and Hellfire missiles, and is designed to detect and destroy armoured vehicles.