British and French naval forces have met up in the Mediterranean for the first time today – kicking off the start of a joint amphibious and carrier strike exercise called Corsican Lion.
More than 3000 British sailors, marines and airmen onboard HMS Bulwark, HMS Illustrious, HMS Montrose, HMS Northumberland and RFA Mounts Bay have joined their French military counterparts – which includes the giant aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle.
Corsican Lion is part of a three-month deployment called Cougar 12 which aims to test the capability of the Response Force Task Group (RFTG), a a rapid reaction force that can be deployed to deal with unexpected world events such as Libya last year.
The Commanding Officers of nearly 20 maritime and land units involved met today on the Charles de Gaulle for a Command Conference to mark the start of the exercise.
Commodore Paddy McAlpine, Commander United Kingdom Task Group said: “This is a historic moment for our navies and land forces and we are very much looking forward to working together on this new chapter of interoperability with our French allies.”
Corsican Lion is the first major naval exercise to test the maritime element of the new Combined Joint Expeditionary Forces (CJEF) between the United Kingdom and France.
It provides a valuable vehicle for the UK and France to integrate further their carrier operations ahead of the introduction of the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers into the Royal Navy’s Fleet – the first of which is due in 2016.
Land force elements for the exercise will be made up of units from 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines who will train with French Marines. Further exercises of the CJEF will take place over the next two years as the Royal Navy moves towards a fully operational Anglo-French force.
Working together gives the UK and France the flexibility and capability to conduct military strike and intervention operations whilst supporting cross-government needs by conducting regional engagement, maritime security and evacuation, delivering humanitarian air or carrying out disaster relief.