Royal Marines have joined French colleagues in ‘invading’ a Corsican beach during the Anglo-French naval exercise Corsican Lion, part of Exercise Cougar.
Rigid inflatable boats carried the force onto the beach to practice their landing assault drills as part of the drive for the two countries to work closer together. The Royal Marines from 3 Commando Brigade are working alongside their French counterparts to develop the new combined joint expeditionary force – a specialist amphibious fighting unit that can take part in a range of land operations.
The marines, lead by Brigadier Martin Smith MBE, make up the lead commando group whose skills are put to the test. He said: “It is an incredibly versatile force and our burgeoning interoperability with the French further proves this. The quality of Royal Marine Commandos and French Marines delivers a highly effective first-response capability which is optimised for early entry operations.”
Transferred from Royal Navy warships such as Plymouth-based HMS Bulwark – the fleet flagship – the marines are injected on the land via boat or helicopter from where they can go directly into combat with land forces.
The main training objective is to prove the two countries can work side-by-side and can also integrate their equipment and communications. The overarching Exercise Cougar 12 – a three-month deployment involving four Royal Navy warships, one Fleet Auxiliary ship and Naval and RAF air power, has more than 3,000 Royal Marines, sailors and airmen taking part.
Captain Joel Durbridge, Royal Marines, said: “It is a brilliant opportunity to train alongside our French Colleagues. Some of our equipment is different but the tactics and mindset are very similar. These opportunities bode well for a strong future operating with the French.”
Exercise Cougar’s objective is to test the capability of the Response Force Task Group, a rapid reaction force that can be deployed to deal with unexpected world events such as the Libyan conflict.
Working together gives the UK and France the flexibility to take part in a range of operations in support of government objectives. Amphibious forces can conduct regional engagement, maritime security and evacuation operations, deliver humanitarian aid or carry out disaster relief, whilst remaining ready to fight if need be.
The Royal Navy is required, as a result of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, to generate a lead commando group drawn from 3 Commando Brigade to be kept at very high readiness to respond to crises around the globe. The current LCG is made up of marines from 45 Commando and South West-based 30 Commando Information Exploitation group (Plymouth), 539 Assault Squadron (Plymouth), 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery (Plymouth) and 24 Commando Engineer Regiment (North Devon).