HC Deb 12 November 1952 vol 507 cc66-7W
115. Sir L. Ropner

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he will make a statement on exercise "Ardent."

Mr. Ward

Exercise "Ardent," the largest air exercise ever held, was most successful. It lasted from 3rd to 12th October and consisted of two week-end phases with a short mid-week phase of night operations. The weather was good and altogether some 7,500 sorties were flown, virtually without accident.

The exercise was designed to give the air defence system an intensive and realistic test, and an exceptionally strong offensive force was mustered. All commands of the Royal Air Force in this country and on the Continent took part, and were admirably assisted by aircraft of the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the United States Air Force, and the Air Forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Continental Powers.

The jet fighter squadrons and other units of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, members of the Royal Air Force Reserves and the Royal Observer Corps, and some 15,000 Territorials of Anti-Aircraft Command gained valuable operational experience and contributed greatly to the strength and success of the exercise, in which in all some 200,000 men and women were engaged.

Every effort was made to ensure that the exercise was as realistic as possible. To this end the Air Defence Commander was kept in ignorance of the programme of attacks, and his task was complicated by imposing on his defences a number of problems at the same time, including the use of Airborne Forces.

The detailed analysis of the exercise will not be available for some time, but preliminary reports indicate that the air defences acquitted themselves well against the attackers. Our fighters had the task of intercepting bombers of varying types. The defences claim that many attacking forces of medium pistonengined bombers of much the same performance as any existing aircraft of a potential enemy were attacked with very encouraging results.

The Canberras, which are superior in performance to any aircraft of similar type which might be used against us, were used in only small formations and, while in present circumstances, fast light bombers of this type stand a good chance of penetrating the defences, a number of interceptions were, in fact, claimed.

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