Revealed: Ministry of Defence’s best photos of 2021

The Ministry of Defence has revealed its best photos of 2021, highlighting the work of the UK Armed Forces in all four corners of the globe. 

The images underline the breadth of the missions undertaken by the British Armed Forces, from cold weather training in the Arctic Cricle, to counter-terrorism operations over the mountains of Mali, and the emergency evacuation in Afghanistan following the Taliban take-over. 

The images were all taken by members of the Armed Forces, who according to the MoD are "soldiers, sailors and aviators first, and photographers second". 

A member of the Armed Forces greets Afghans as the board a military evacuation plane to leave Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

Credit: LPhot Ben Shread

An apache helicopter conducts dust landings during desert environmental training in Oman

Credit: SAC Charlotte Hopkins

A British soldiers taken part in patrols as part of a training exercise at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus

Credit: Cpl Phil Dye

"This year and every year, Armed Forces photographers have captured the vital work of the Armed Forces in the UK and around the world," said Harland Quarrington, the MoD’s chief photographic officer. 

"The work of military photographers was crucial to telling the heartbreaking story of Afghanistan and the remarkable evacuation of 15,000 vulnerable civilians this summer. 

"I’m so grateful to our photographers for bringing amazing stories from around the world – from the Middle East to the Arctic Circle – back to their supporters in the UK." 

One striking image captures a RAF Flight Sergeant as he operates as the rear crewman on a Chinook as it flies through the Hombori mountains in Mali. 

A Royal Marine from 45 Commando prepares to plunge into icey water during cold weather training in Norway

Credit: LPhot James Clarke
/Royal Navy

An image of an RAF C-130J plane conducting a nose-up manoeuvre over the runway at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus after returning from Jordan

Credit: Cpl 'Matty' Matthews

One of two newly qualified pilots landing an F35B Lightning Jet on board HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time

Credit: LPhot Unaisi Luke
/Royal Navy

Royal Air Force Chinooks currently deployed in Mali are supporting the French military counter-terrorist operations across the Sahel region of West Africa. 

Another image – taken during Operation Pitting at Kabul airport in August – sees a member of the Armed Forces fist pump an Afghan national as he enters the military transport plane ahead of its departure from Afghanistan. 

Away from live military deployments, A Royal Marine from 45 Commando can be seen preparing to plunge into icey water as part of cold weather training in Norway. 

45 Commando are the UK’s cold weather warfare experts and must be prepared to conduct operations anywhere in the world.

Members of the British Army's Pathfinders Platoon taking part in an urban training exercise

Credit: Cpl Danny Houghton

A formation flight of specially painted Chinook and Puma helicopters to mark over 90 years of combined service

Credit: Cpl Tim Laurence

Finally, members of the British Army’s Pathfinders Platoon are seen taking part in an urban training exercise. Pathfinders is the advance force for 16 Air Assault Brigade, the British Army’s airborne rapid reaction force. 

Pathfinders soldiers are trained in specifialist airborne insertion tehcniques and are capable of conducting offensive action tasks at very short notice. They operate behind enemy lines in small, self-sufficient patrols, finding and relaying vital information back to HQ. 

A key role of Pathfinders is to identify drop and landing zones, where the main body of troops can be parachuted in or landed by helicopter. 

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