Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 10:04 UK

Major military exercise extended

WAH-64 Apache
British Apache helicopters have seen action overseas

Europe's largest military exercise - Joint Warrior - is to be extended from two to three weeks this October.

Held twice a year in spring and autumn, it sees some of the training of Nato armies and navies held in Scotland and in the sea off its coast.

The first of this year's two exercise, JW091, is drawing to a close.

It has seen Apache attack helicopters and Chinook helicopter transports fly over Inverness en route to training areas.

The Royal Navy confirmed October's exercise would run a week a longer.

JW091 involved the UK and up to 12 other countries.

More than 20 warships, 75 aircraft and hundreds of personnel were tested in various scenarios, including reacting to an act of terrorism.

French marines

Two Apaches skirted the southern edge of the city on Wednesday afternoon.

Similar helicopters have been used by the British Army during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last October's exercise in Scotland featured two of the largest vessels in the Royal Navy - assault ship HMS Bulwark and aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious.

In one scenario, a task group of 33 ships and French marines were sent into the fictitious Northern Dispute Zone to tackle the "Dragonians" who had been harassing the "Caledonians and Avalonians".

Soldiers, sailors and air crews from Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and the US were also involved.

Following last May's Joint Warrior, the military were accused of sparking heath fires during live firing exercises.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) estimated 338 acres at Cape Wrath on Scotland's north mainland coast were affected.

The agency said it could take 10 years for the area to return to normal.

Responding to earlier accusations of committing a wildlife crime, the Ministry of Defence said it did not train irresponsibly.

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