HMS Albion has returned from the frozen fjords of Norway after working with allies in the Arctic Circle.
The UK’s amphibious flagship headed north with RFA Mounts Bay and frigate HMS Somerset to work with the Dutch, Norwegians and other nations for a series of exercises and joint training.
Exercise Joint Viking saw the Royal Navy and Royal Marines build on the UK and Netherlands Amphibious Force – a 50 year partnership that has seen the two countries share values, equipment and training.
While Royal Marines parachuted onto a frozen lake with their Dutch brethren, at sea the ships, so crucial to the Amphibious Force, worked together as the heart of the Joint Expeditionary Force and NATO during the Norwegian-led exercises.
The task group led by Dutch navy amphibious ship HNLMS Rotterdam included her sister ship HNLMS Karel Dorman, HMS Albion, RFA Mounts Bay and escort Type 23 frigate HMS Somerset.
Together, they ‘answered the call’ of defending Norway from an ‘aggressor’. Joint Viking is training for Norway and its allies to defend its frontiers and NATO’s northern flank in the face of a modern threat.
The task group is operating as part of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) – a collection of ten like-minded nations, including Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Sweden, who together react to events in northern Europe’s waterways, remaining on standby to respond crises and world events.
Captain Marcus Hember, commanding officer of HMS Albion, said: “What JEF does, in this in environment, means we can act quickly. We take our security seriously, and so when it matters, we will turn up.
“Alongside our Partner Nations, NATO and more broadly our allies and partners, the JEF will continue to deliver as a collective of 10 like-minded north European Nations.
“[JEF is] dedicated to delivering coordinated exercises, operations, and activities that continue to contribute to the stability and prosperity of northern Europe and the wider region.”
In Vågsfjorden – located between Norway’s two largest islands, Hinnøya to the south and Senja to the north – ships, submarines, fast jets and patrol craft of JEF nations converged in a show of power.
Two F-35-A jets from the Norwegian Air Force roared overhead as a Norwegian submarine Uredd appeared from the depths in Albion’s wake.
Buzzing around the amphibious ships were the P2000s of the Royal Navy’s Coastal Forces Squadron – HMS Archers, Puncher, Pursuer and Smiter, along with the stealth missile corvette HNoMS Skjold.
Once the efforts in Vågsfjorden were complete, HMS Albion and RFA Mounts Bay headed north to another fjord, Sorreisa, to put practice the complex art of amphibious landings on WADER (Wet and Dry Exercise Rehearsals).
Day and night in freezing conditions, the specialists in beach landings, 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines (4ASRM) – Albion’s in houses landing craft experts – carefully moved vehicles, 105mm guns from 29 Commando, and ISO containers carrying equipment from the fjord beaches to RFA Mounts Bay using their large landing craft (the LCU).
Driver of all-terrain vehicles – the iconic BVS206 and Vikings – got to grips with manoeuvring on and off landing craft, while Yankee Company of 45 Commando practised moving to deploy through the ships and onto landing craft, before landing ashore.
Once the WADER was ticked off, the UK and Dutch ships began the tactical phase of Exercise Joint Viking together.
Using night vision devices to assist their fjord navigation, 4ASRM and Yankee Company headed out to live and operate from their landing craft as Forward Operating Bases.
From there they carried out reconnaissance of potential beach landing points, before the officer in command of Yankee Company gave the order to land commando strike teams and Viking vehicles.
With the Exercise Joint Viking complete, HMS Albion headed south and was welcomed home to Plymouth.