The largest ever NATO exercise to take place off the coast of Scotland has begun today as the Royal Navy, Army and RAF put their warfighting skills to the test.
Seven warships from the UK, Netherlands and Canada sailed in formation from the East coast of Scotland round to the West today where they will join up with the rest of the task group on Tuesday.
Involving more than 40 warships, 40 fixed-wing aircraft and 30 helicopters from the UK, Netherlands, Canada, France, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Germany, over 12,000 personnel will be taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior.
A training exercise for Response Force Task Group, which is designed to respond at a moment’s notice to rapidly unfolding world events, this takes place twice a year in a vast arena off the coast of Scotland.
Events began on Friday at Barry Buddon beach in Barry, Carnoustie where 42 Commando Royal Marines launched an aviation assault to practise landing on the shores of a hostile nation and being ready to fight. Viking vehicles were also brought onto the shores via landing craft from HMS Bulwark, demonstrating how they would bring their equipment and support to back up the marines landed from the air.
For the Commander UK Task Group based on HMS Bulwark, Commodore Paddy McAlpine this is a chance to put into practise lessons learnt from the Royal Navy’s key exercise last year, Cougar 12. That exercise, spearheaded by HMS Bulwark and HMS Illustrious, saw the task group work first with the French off Toulon and Corsica, then with the Albanians in the Adriatic.
Cdre McAlpine said: “During Joint Warrior we will practise fighting at sea as well as fighting from the sea. We’ll practise against a demanding air, surface and submarine threat, entering a hostile environment and then deliver our landing force of Royal and Dutch marines to the right area.”
“Exercises such as Joint Warrior provide us with the scale, diversity and pace that we need to maintain our capability as the naval contingency element of the Response Force Task Group.”
The Royal Navy has more than a dozen warships and submarines including Plymouth-based Fleet Flagship HMS Bulwark, HMS Sutherland, HMS Montrose, survey ship HMS Echo and submarine HMS Talent.
Portsmouth based vessels include helicopter and Commando carrier HMS Illustrious – which has spent much of the early part of 2013 carrying out aviation training off the west coast of Scotland – Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond, HMS Westminster and HMS Richmond.
A small group of mine-hunters (HM Ships Brocklesby, Hurworth, Pembroke and Grimsby) will also be providing the mine-counter-measures capability. Royal Marines from 42 Commando Group, as part of 3 Commando Brigade, will provide the amphibious landing force.
The scenario will cover a broad range of circumstances including evolving crisis and conflict situations which cover disputed territory, conventional and non-conventional maritime and amphibious threats such as counter-piracy and terrorist activity. The scenarios will develop over two weeks, increasing in tension and uncertainty into stimulated operations and potential state-on-state hostilities.
Aerial support will be provided by RAF Chinooks and Junglie Sea Kings of the Yeovilton-based Commando Helicopter Force, plus Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall, as well the Lynx and Merlins of the destroyers and frigates taking part.