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Borders force as marines let rip with heavy weapons on the England-Scotland frontier
30 November 2015

Royal Marines of 45 Commando let rip on the range when they hammered away with machine-guns and missiles for live-firing training.

Yankee Company spent a week training at Otterburn Camp in Northumberland, training which climaxed with launches of Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles.

Mne Danny Dugan unleashes Javelin. Pictures: LA(Phot) Pepe Hogan, 45 Cdo

WANT to see £17,500 of firepower leaving the launcher of a Next-generation Light Anti-tank Weapon?

The Fire Support Group of Yankee Company, 45 Commando, did – and let rip on the range for a week.

The Arbroath-based green berets missed out on the chance for live firing back with their fellow commandos in Wales back in the spring because they were deployed with HMS Bulwark rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean.

Six months later their chance came at Otterburn ranges, three dozen miles outside Newcastle, and a week of non-stop firepower, beginning with machine-guns and ending with some tankbusting – mostly played out in strong winds and heavy rain as autumn weather descended on the ranges next to the English-Scottish border.

Impressive as two gun lines of machine-guns hammering away are, the party piece of Exercise Black Storm was some live missile firing – three NLAWs, one Javelin.

Javelin is nearly twice as heavy and costs nearly ten times as much, but can knock out enemy armour at four times the distance (about 2,500 metres or 1½ miles) of the smaller NLAW anti-tank missile.

Army instructors did their best to wind up Mne Danny Dugan – who was selected to fire the ‘Jav’ – with hair-raising tales of missiles going rogue on the range, while a sizeable crowd of soldiers and marines gathered.

“There was a gasp of shock when the missile left the launcher and started curving off to the left – only for a sigh of relief to hit as the missile curled back towards the target after taking a dogleg,” said Mne Kev MacNeish. “Everyone was buzzing.”

The lighter NLAWs are only effective at tanks closer than 600 metres – under 2,000ft – and can be fired directly into the target (“hitting with a massive bang”), or can climb and plunge into the turret from above, known as ‘top attack’, “leaving the target in pieces and everyone on a high,” said Kev.

“All the fire support group had been looking forward to getting some valuable trigger time,” he continued. “This was a hoofing week and everyone left with high morale.”