Home > Exercise News > ORION 2023 ~ Belgians on Manoeuvres in France

ORION 2023 ~ Belgians on Manoeuvres in France

ORION 2023 [© Belgian MoD: Rein Van den Bergh]

650 Belgian soldiers are currently in France to take part in ORION 23 ~ one of the largest exercises of the French Army in recent decades.

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Press Release, Brussels, 27 April 2023: [auto-translated] Some 650 Belgian soldiers (and 160 vehicles) are currently in France to take part in one of the largest exercises of the French Army in recent decades: ORION 23. In and around the Marne, the Ardense Jagers battalion, together with elements of several other Belgian support units, participate in a fictional battle in a multinational environment. “This exercise will facilitate contacts for future assignments,” explains the corps commander of the Ardense Hunters battalion.

ORION 2023 [© Belgian MoD: Rein Van den Bergh]

From April 19 to May 5, 2023, the large-scale exercise ORION (Operation for Resilient, Interoperable, high intensity Oriented and INnovative) is taking place in France, in which 10,000 to 12,000 troops train under French command. This exercise, one of the most important and largest exercises ever held by the French Army, aims in particular to demonstrate the country’s ability to command and deploy multinational forces.

Key partner: As an important partner thanks to the Capacité Motorisée (CaMo) project – aimed at the interoperability of Belgian and French motorised capacities – Belgium also participates with a significant number of troops. During the exercise, a joint Belgian battlegroup led by the Ardennes Jagers battalion is deployed in the French Deuxième Brigade Blindée.

ORION 2023 [© Belgian MoD: Rein Van den Bergh]

The Belgian battle group is supported by elements of the Battalion Carabiniers Prince Boudewijn – Grenadiers, Engineers Battalions 4 and 11, as well as Logistical, Medical and Communications and Information Systems (CIS) elements. A size that the Belgian land component rarely deploys in the context of a multinational exercise.

“We are fully involved in the real field exercise,” says Colonel Thiry, Corps Commander of the Ardense Jagers. “We will be deployed in the field for three weeks to carry out all assignments assigned to us by our higher echelon, the French Brigade.”

Security for retreating troops: In ORION’s fictional scenario, the land of Mercure invades neighbouring Arnland. A current scenario that was already written in 2021, but whose relevance is confirmed by the war in Ukraine. According to the scenario, Belgian troops join the support of other allied partners in protecting the fictional Arnland.

ORION 2023 [© Belgian MoD: Rein Van den Bergh]

In the first part of the scenario, the Belgian military was responsible for creating a secure zone through which the friendly troops could retreat. “We are organising patrols to control the zone and to ensure that the roads are passable for the gathering of the French elements after their defence,” explained First Lieutenant David of the Ardense Jagers battalion. In addition, the Belgians were also responsible for the control of the columns during their withdrawal. “When a column of vehicles moves through the zone, I have to identify the unit and the type of vehicle and pass the information on to my platoon leader,” says another first soldier.

International contacts: For the Belgian troops, the large-scale ORION exercise is also good preparation for their future missions abroad. “The great fortune we have during ORION is that we will insert a company into one of our neighbouring French battalions, the 16ème Bataillon de Chasseurs à Pied, during one of our next foreign missions,” continues Colonel Thiry. “This exercise will therefore also bring our two battalions closer together and facilitate contacts for future assignments.”

ORION 2023 [© Belgian MoD: Rein Van den Bergh]

Source: Belgian MoD / Wilge Decraene

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