Operation ORBITAL explained: Training Ukrainian Armed Forces

Operation ORBITAL explained: Training Ukrainian Armed Forces

British forces have been in Ukraine working alongside our Allies providing training

In 2014, Crimea, which is officially part of Ukraine, was taken over by pro-Russian forces and then subsequently illegally annexed by Russia.

Operation ORBITAL is the codename given to the UK Armed Forces’ deployment in Ukraine.

British troops have been providing training and capacity building to the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2015.

Here are three things you need to know:

1. Why Ukraine?

Operation ORBITAL is the UK’s training mission to Ukraine and was established in 2015 following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia (in 2014), in a demonstration of our unwavering support to Ukraine.

2020 marks six years since the annexation by Russia and the beginning of conflict in the east of the country.

The security situation in the south-eastern parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (regions) of Ukraine remain highly unstable, with ongoing clashes between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed armed separatists.

The UN calculates this has resulted in around 13,000 deaths and approximately 1.5 million internally displaced people residing permanently in government-controlled areas of Ukraine. Civilians continue to get caught up in the fighting.

A British solider acting as a guide for a section assault during a Battle Exercise with Ukrainian and British soldiers

2. What training is the UK providing?

Working away from the conflict in the East, around 100 UK Armed Forces personnel at any one time continue to make a difference and save lives in Ukraine.

They do this by working as short term training teams (STTTs) coordinated by a team of staff officers at Op ORBITAL Headquarters in Kyiv.

The UK Armed Forces are committed to working with our allies & partners to instigate peace and security in Europe and around the world.

The training focuses on a range of key battle basic infantry and medic skills;

  • Medical
  • Logistics
  • Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED)
  • Leadership and infantry skills
  • Planning
  • Maritime capacity building: diving, firefighting, damage control and sea surveillance

This training is vital for the Ukrainian Armed Forces striving to modernise and develop, as they continue to face Russian aggression in the east of their country.

A paratrooper 16 Air Assault Brigade prepares to jump from a C130 Aircraft and parachute into Ukraine.
A paratrooper from 16 Air Assault Brigade prepares to jump from a C130 Aircraft and parachute into Ukraine

Further to Operation ORBITAL, which focuses on capacity building, the UK Armed Forces enjoys a close partnership with Ukraine and our two nations regularly collaborate in joint training opportunities across the sea, land and air domains.

In recent months, a large-scale training exercise with the Ukrainian forces saw the biggest Para drop in a decade — Exercise Joint Endeavour. The exercise began with 250 soldiers deploying by air from the UK within three days mid-September.

This multinational exercise saw the paratroopers take part in joint training alongside their Ukrainian Counterparts, 3rd Battalion the 80th Separate Air Assault Brigade.

In doing so, the paratroopers demonstrated the ability of the UK to move at pace to support our partners around the world.

Major General Ian Cave, Chief of Staff, Field Army, speaks to a member of The Ukrainian military about the demonstration betw
Major General Ian Cave, Chief of Staff, Field Army, speaks to a member of the Ukrainian military about a demonstration showcased by the UK and Ukrainian forces.

3. What has been delivered?

The UK and Ukraine have built a strong defence relationship in recent years. With British troops having trained more than 20,000 members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the five years since the start of the UK’s training mission.

In September 2020, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stepped up the UK’s support to Ukraine even further, announcing that the UK would lead a multi-national Maritime Training Initiative for the Ukrainian Navy.

Courses will be delivered by the Royal Navy and naval personnel from Sweden, Canada and Denmark in a range of areas.

Ukrainian and British soldiers in a Battle Exercise scripted to involve a Ukrainian Recce callsign.
Ukrainian and British soldiers in a Battle Exercise scripted to involve a Ukrainian Recce callsign.

Find out where else the UK Armed Forces are deployed here 👇

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Stories from the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the UK Armed Forces around the globe.

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