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An image of Army Ranger Wing operators during their beach landing. Irish Defence Forces
Special Forces

MV Matthew Army Ranger Wing team travels to Spain for major EU military exercise

The EU Crisis Management event took place in Cadiz in Spain this week.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 20th 2023, 5:27 PM

THE SAME IRISH Army special forces team that carried out the MV Matthew raid have spent the last week on an exercise in Southern Spain.

The Maritime Task Unit of the Army Ranger Wing travelled to Cadiz this week to take part in a massive European Union military exercise. 

The unit performed tasks such as making an undetected landing after a combat dive, by swimming under the water in darkness, as part of the Special Forces phase of a landing.

They also attacked targets to prepare the way for the larger force.

An Irish Defence Forces spokesperson, working with the team, spoke about the role the ARW operators played. 

“This was to work alone, unsupported by friendly forces and behind enemy lines. It was achieved via the sub-surface infiltration of multiple dive teams,” he said. 

The spokesperson explained that the team was brought by rigid hulled inflatable boat from a large ship to within a safe distance to swim into the beach.

The team then swam underwater undetected – the spokesperson said the hardest element of the dive was the navigation to the target area and it is done all under cover of darkness. 

“The ability to navigate a dive team underwater at night is one of the pure Special Operation Forces skill sets.

“There is no room for error in this environment, complacency is never given an inch,” he said. 

The spokesperson said that their task after hiding their specialised dive equipment is to secure the beach landing area.  

“The team proceed to secure the ‘beachhead’, this is the term given to the large amphibious assault landing area where follow on troops will arrive in the coming days,” he added. 

The spokesperson also said that in the mediate moments before the landing of the main force the Rangers assault engage “key targets and vital installations”.

“This is to create an environment of chaos and confusion for opposing forces, whose confusion is only compounded by the arrival of the larger assaulting force.

“It is exercise conditions for the ARW dive team on this occasion but this will hone skill sets and ensures that if called upon, they are ready to do the tasks in a real world scenario,” the spokesperson concluded. 

The EU Crisis Management event took place in Cadiz in Spain this week and is a major part of the Strategic Compass strategy around the community’s security. 

That Common Defence policy document, released in March 2022, is designed to strengthen the EU’s security and defence policy by 2030.

Part of that strategy is to enable the community to react “rapidly and robustly” to a crisis.

That plan includes the EU Rapid Deployment Capacity which will allow the union us to immediately deploy 5000 troops to respond to major incidents.

The exercise, entitled MILEX23, practiced that concept with planning and execution of an autonomous Military Operation in a coastal area, in a hybrid threat environment.

ARW Two members of the Army Ranger Wing arriving on the beach. Irish Defence Forces Irish Defence Forces

The event was hosted by Spain and had military forces from Ireland, France, Hungary, Italy, Romania and neutral Austria participating.

The Defence Forces received a request from the Director General of the European Union Military Staff in February 2023 to take part.

The Irish troops will take part in the exercise in the training area in Cadiz, Spain.

It is understood that the Tánaiste Micheál Martin who is also Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs told cabinet that it is hoped the exercise will give the Defence Forces experience in EU command and control systems as well as crisis management procedures.

Earlier this year, the Government approved Ireland’s participation in the next German-led EU Battlegroup which will involve a two-year commitment from 1 January 2024.

More live exercises are expected to take place in 2024 and 2025.

The EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters at the event: “[This week's] Brussels terror attack showed we need to step up security, and defense is part of security. This is the first of many future EU live exercises.”