Armed Royal Marines have landed on a Cornish beach from fast raiding craft as activity grows ahead of Exercise Cougar 12.
The manoeuvre this morning, by a contingent of 30 Commandos, was one of several training serials happening around the South West before the largest Royal Navy exercise of 2012.
The marines, from Arbroath-based 45 Commando, plunged with training weapons from their rigid inflatable boats into the shallow waters of Barnpool Beach, opposite Plymouth. They are part of more than 3,000 sailors and Marines gearing up for the two-month training deployment to the Mediterranean later this month – this year’s key workout of the UK’s high-readiness task group.
Exercise Cougar 12 will see six warships and support vessels, Royal Marine Commandos and six Naval Air Squadrons – making up the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) – train with French and Albanian counterparts.
Armed Forces Minister, Andrew Robathan, said: “This exercise by the Royal Marines marks the start of the deployment of the UK’s Response Force Task Group, a flexible, scalable and potent force forming part of our contingent capability. This Royal Navy deployment, ready and able to respond to emerging events worldwide, will work alongside our allies at a time when international co-operation and joint operations are more important than ever before.”
Commodore Paddy McAlpine, Commander UK Task Group, who leads the task group on Exercise Cougar 12, stressed the drills were part of a long-planned training exercise that has been 12 months in the planning and is designed to refresh the Royal Navy and Royal Marines’ amphibious skills following a focus on land-based operations in Afghanistan.
Commodore McAlpine said: “My role is to lead the Response Force Task Group and ensure it is an adaptable and integrated force. This is a flexible force which can act as a whole or be split up and respond to any call on its resources. The Royal Navy is itself a flexible, versatile force and has ships and units worldwide which can also integrate into the task group if needed. It can be adapted to whatever task the Government wants it to do. Cougar 12 provides us with a superb opportunity to rekindle our amphibious capability after a prolonged period when our focus has been on operations elsewhere. “
Commodore McAlpine also said an important part of the role of the task group was to work closely with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, and its strike group, as a joint expeditionary force while on Exercise Cougar 12.
Brigadier Martin Smith will lead Plymouth-based 3 Commando Brigade during Cougar 12, which will include training landings in Albania. He said today’s exercise by Yankee Company of 45 Commando Royal Marines was useful practice, reinforcing skills such as hovercraft, boat and landing craft handling.
Brigadier Smith said: “The South West coast is an ideal environment for preparing for the major Cougar element of landing on Albania’s really challenging coastline and inland. We are focussed on well-planned training objectives and specific aims which are subtle and the idea is to provide the UK Government with a flexible force which can be inserted into any coastal environment and withdrawn again. My Marines can be on reconnaissance, engage with friendly forces or be directed at targets.”