The Fleet Flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Bulwark, sailed from Plymouth to lead the Royal Navy’s major amphibious deployment.
The amphibious command and control ship, carrying Royal Marines and a range of all-terrain vehicles, will be joined by recently refurbished HMS Ocean and other ships from the UK’s high readiness Response Force Task Group when they join forces.
The routine annual four-month deployment, named Cougar 14, includes a series of demanding amphibious and maritime-based exercises with partner nations throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East region and ensures that the task group is ready to respond to any contingency the UK Government directs upon it.
Captain Dean Bassett, the commanding officer of HMS Bulwark, said: “Cougar 14 is a strategically important deployment for HMS Bulwark and marks the culmination of a huge amount of hard work by my Ship’s Company over the past few months to ensure we are able to support Cougar 14 and be ready for contingent operations.”
He added: “The deployment not only demonstrates to our partners and allies just how flexible and versatile maritime forces can be – it also physically embodies how the Royal Navy protects the nation’s interests overseas.”
The deployment proves the capability of the UK’s high readiness Response Force Task Group, demonstrating the ability to project a highly effective UK maritime force anywhere in the world, providing direct support to the UK Government’s security and prosperity agenda and reassuring allies of the UK’s long term commitment to security in the Middle East.
Speaking about his first deployment in a Royal Navy warship, Engineering Technician Steven Cowie from Aberdeenshire said: “It’s really exciting to be deploying but at the same time pretty daunting as I don’t really know what to expect. I’m
looking forward to playing my part in helping to demonstrate what the Royal Navy and Royal Marines can do and hopefully have some fun along the way!”
In preparation for Cougar 14, HMS Bulwark loaded her decks with over 50 vehicles including a number of armoured amphibious Vikings as well as Land Rovers, trucks and logistic machinery. She is also ready to operate Sea King, Merlin and Chinook helicopters from her flight deck for extended periods.
Shortly before finally departing UK waters HMS Bulwark will embark nearly 100 extra Royal Marines from across 3 Commando Brigade and an additional staff of over 100 specialist personnel required to command and control the task group and all of the exercises and engagement activities.
HMS Bulwark is an assault command and control ships with a crew of 350, a quarter of whom are made up from 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines. In addition the ship can carry up to 225 Royal Marines in dedicated accommodation for long periods and another 500 for short periods. Her flight deck can accommodate two Chinook or two Merlin helicopters. A large floodable dock holds four large landing craft with another four carried on the ship’s side.