The combined firepower of Royal Navy warships and Royal Artillery gun batteries has been ringing out over the Scottish Highlands as part of a two-week training exercise.
Around 200 Royal Marines from 42 Commando were landed several miles inshore of Cape Wrath by Chinook and Sea King helicopters to attack four enemy positions as part of a scenario in which they responded rapidly to a developing threat.
Supported by 4.5 inch guns on HMS Diamond and HMS Westminster plus the 105mm light guns of 29 Commando Royal Artillery, the Marines took around three hours to push their way through the enemy to reach the shore. 42 Cdo also used its own 81mm mortars along with those from Swedish Marines, as well as General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) to launch an all-out attack on the target positions.
Following the training exercise they then launched a night time raid on the same area.
“This is exactly how it would happen in a real life situation,” said Captain Dave Thatcher, 29 Commando RA, one of the training team managers.
“All the ammunition being used is live, and when the Marines get to the targets they will see something there that will denote it is a position they are meant to attack. It is as realistic as we can get. It is also one of the few places in the UK where we can practise this type of large scale firing exercise.
“This particular part of the exercise is all aimed at getting 42 Commando back to contingency as part of the Lead Commando Group.”
As part of 3 Commando Brigade’s Lead Commando Group, 42 Cdo will be ready to react to rapidly unfolding world events as they happen. The exercise draws on their core amphibious assault skills rather than those used on land operations such as Afghanistan.
Brigadier Martin Smith, Commander 3 Commando Brigade said: “While the Lead Commando Group can undertake a wide range of missions, we need to prepared to fight if necessary at short notice and in unfamiliar environments. Joint Warrior, which brings together land and maritime fire power and manoeuvre forces, is hugely important in making sure that we can link together all elements of our capability.”
As well as the British forces using the exercise areas, Dutch, French and Swedish forces will be practising their firepower on the trenches and ranges on Thursday under the wider umbrella of Exercise Joint Warrior.
A huge multi national exercise involving more than 30 warships and over 65 aircraft, Joint Warrior happens twice a year to integrate forces from many different nations. Involving personnel from Belgium, France, Netherlands, Sweden and Canada among others, there are more than 12,000 people taking part in the largest Joint Warrior yet.
The aim is to ensure that our forces could respond effectively to a rapidly unfolding crisis anywhere in the world.
Principal Warfare Officer (Above Water) on HMS Diamond Lieutenant Ben Martin said: “Our role in this exercise was to fire the 4.5inch gun to support the troops ashore as we would in a real life situation. A large scale exercise, it is an important training serial for us as we get to all play together in the same area which is rather unusual.”
This year sees the 40th Anniversary of the UK and Netherlands military bilateral partnership -the longest standing agreement of its type. Alongside other exercising countries, both nations also contribute to the European Amphibious Initiative.