Ex Lionheart – When NATO Knew How to Throw a Party

Chieftain Ex Lionheart

As the British Army and the rest of NATO come to terms with getting back into the territorial defence business with an increase in planning and exercising I thought a quick trip back down memory lane might be fun.

LIONHEART comprised two interlinked exercises, FULL FLOW and SPEARPOINT, the former, a deployment through the Rear Combat Zone and the latter, the field training exercise for 1(BR) Corps.

Executed in 1984 that involved 131,565 UK personnel, regular, reserve and Territorial Army, the largest exercise since the end of WWII.

290 flights from the UK transported 32,000 personnel. This initial air movement was followed with 150 sailings across the North Sea and English Channel using civilian ferries. The sea routes carried 23,600 personnel with 14,000 vehicles and trailers.

Exercise Lionheart CVR W

750 Main Battle Tanks were involved and most crossings over the Rhine were conducted with combat bridging, making the assumption that all civilian bridges had been destroyed. 1(BR) Corps were deployed with 3th and 4th Armoured Divisions and 1st Infantry Division.

Exercise Lionheart

Providing the opposition (Orange forces) were 6,300 German (1 Panzergrenadier Brigade), 3,500 Dutch (41st Armoured Brigade), 3,400 American (1st Armoured Brigade)and 165 Commonwealth (from Australia, New Zealand and Canada) personnel. Lionheart was the first time US forces had operated in Europe with their new M1 Abrams MBT and M2 Bradley combat vehicles. The newly re-formed 5th Airborne Brigade also formed a second opposition group, joined by elements of the Life Guards and 10th Gurkha Rifles.


13,000 RAF personnel were involved, deploying Harrier and the newly introduced Tornado aircraft.

It was the first opportunity to conduct a major exercise with Challenger 1 Main Battle Tanks, Saxon and tracked Rapier. The still in early development Warrior Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle was also introduced.

Three soldiers died during the exercise and seven were seriously injured.

Do take the time to watch this series of videos, a great piece of nostalgia, yes, but also an illustration of just how times have changed.

And no TD post would be complete with the opportunity to get an ISO container in.

CVRT) Spartan being loaded into a container on Exercise Lionheart 1984
CVRT) Spartan being loaded into a container on Exercise Lionheart 1984

Now that is what you call deployability.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments