A large-scale exercise which will see nearly 1000 Royal Marines hone their skills alongside their Albanian counterparts is now under way.
Exercise Albanian Lion is the first major outing for the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) – a Royal Naval force involving four warships and five support vessels which is exercising in the Mediterranean and Gulf over the next three months under the name Cougar 13.
Exercise Albanian Lion will see the Lead Commando Group of 42 Commando – the Royal Marine unit that stands ready to react to events anywhere in the world – carry out a series of mock assaults on enemy positions near Biza as they continue to build their core skill of amphibious warfare.
Launching their assault from HMS Bulwark, this will be third time the two forces have worked together after the RFTG was formed following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Ahead of the exercise Colonel Kevin Oliver, Deputy Commander 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines met with Major General Xhemal Gjunkshi, Chief of Defence Albania Armed Forces at Tirana airport.
Colonel Oliver said: “Building on from last year’s exercise we have enhanced our contribution by providing a larger force comprising fast jets, helicopters, assault boats and armoured personnel carriers for ground manoeuvre and force protection.
“We already have reconnaissance teams in place, to as we would in a real life scenario, who will guide in the landing force.”
Once the forces have landed they will push forward through enemy terrain while being supported by the RFTG ships who can sustain them logistically and cover their progress with firepower should that be required.
“Albania has some of the best training areas ever used by our Task Group,” added Col Oliver. “We are extremely grateful for their use and for the chance to work alongside Albanian Forces, sharing the experience of operations.”
The Cougar 13 deployment will operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Arabian Gulf, and Horn of Africa. It involves exercising with partner nations, and will show the UK Armed Forces’ capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world as part of the RFTG. This is commanded by Commodore Paddy McAlpine from the Fleet Flagship HMS Bulwark.
The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, made up of ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, at five days notice to act in response to any contingency tasking including humanitarian disaster relief or international military intervention.