The amphibious warship HMS Bulwark arrived home to the South West of England (Friday 30th November) after two-months with the largest Royal Naval deployment of the year in the Mediterranean.
The Plymouth-based assault ship is berthed this afternoon in HM Naval Base Devonport.
The command and control ship led the UK’s Response Force Task Group on Exercise Cougar, consisting of the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious and Plymouth-based HMS Montrose and HMS Northumberland, Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay and the heavy-lift ferry, Hartland Point.
HMS Bulwark commanding officer, Captain Andrew Burns, said: “It has been an immensely successful deployment. We have proved we have the professionalism and the tools to do the job that we are here to do. We have come a long way in the two months since we sailed from Devonport, and we have honed the skills that make HMS Bulwark a capable and formidable amphibious platform and fleet flagship.
“We now look forward to 2013 and the opportunities that we are presented with to develop and build upon our capabilities even further.”
Sailing fully loaded with 550 Sailors, Royal Marines and Commander United Kingdom Task Group (COMUKTG) staff officers, 62 Land Rovers and armoured vehicles and eight amphibious landing craft, HMS Bulwark departed as a fully loaded amphibious assault platform ready to grasp every opportunity available on the exercise to train and prove its capabilities.
Having trained off the SW coast where the force took the opportunity to exercise the key elements of amphibious operations, the RFTG sailed for the Mediterranean taking the opportunity to practise with Danish, French and Spanish Navies along the way.
The culmination of all the rehearsing took place in Corsica, testing the combined joint expeditionary force concept developed under the 2012 UK and France Defence Cooperation Treaty. The British and French navies were successfully able to examine and test the maritime element by demonstrating its ability to project air power from the sea using the French Carrier Strike Group and the British Amphibious Task Group, with HMS Bulwark at the centre of amphibious operations.
The 13-day exercise in Albania included 30 and 45 Commando Royal Marines, a full land and air assault on the Vlore Peninsula and simulated small boat attacks were conducted against the ships in the task group by the Albanian Navy, playing the role of smugglers and insurgents. Exercise Albanian Lion allowed HMS Bulwark to not only demonstrate its prowess in amphibious operations, command and control, and surface defence against maritime attack.
The crew of HMS Bulwark also enjoyed port visits to Gibraltar, Toulon, Corfu and Malta for diplomacy duties and rest, memorial services and sport events. The crew are now on well-earned leave.