The Royal Navy’s amphibious flagship HMS Bulwark has sailed from Plymouth to take part in the bilateral UK-French Exercise Griffin Strike taking part off the coast of the UK.
Joining other Royal Navy vessels, are Plymouth-based HMS Ocean and HMS Sutherland, with French Naval ships including the assault helicopter carrier FS Dixmude.
The exercise will show how UK and French maritime, land and air forces can be deployed rapidly together for a wide range of bilateral operations and, if called upon, work together as part of a NATO, EU or UN coalition operation. The tri-service (naval, army and airforce), is designed to validate the concept of the Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, or CJEF.
Captain James Parkin, the Captain of HMS Bulwark said: “Griffin Strike is an excellent training opportunity and will build on our existing strong links with our French allies. Bulwark and Dixmude exercised together only last October and such close cooperation in realistic scenarios is hugely beneficial in maximising our respective military capabilities.”
The exercise will last two weeks, with the maritime element taking place off the south and west coasts of the UK and culminating off the South Wales in the Bristol Channel, and involves Royal Marines conducting beach assaults by sea and air. The sea forces will be supported by helicopters and other aircraft of all three of the armed services linking up with a considerable number of UK and French land forces. The entire exercise is the culmination of many years of UK-French military and naval cooperation and is a key component of the commitment towards joint working made by both nations at the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement in 2010.
On completion of Griffin Strike HMS Bulwark will continue her busy programme of operations and training in North West European waters and – after a brief maintenance period – will lead the Royal Navy’s annual Cougar deployment later in the year. HMS Bulwark is retained at high readiness on five days’ notice to deploy worldwide for contingent operations – whether combat operations, providing humanitarian assistance or disaster relief.
HMS Ocean has also sailed from Plymouth with Royal Marines from Plymouth-based 42 Commando, 847 Naval Air Squadron from Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton and Apache Helicopters from the Army Air Corps and Chinook helicopters from 27 Squadron Royal Air Force. The next few days will see the ship and its embarked forces training together off the South Coast, before working with HMS Bulwark and the French Navy Ship Dixmude.