Britain’s amphibious task force linked up with an Italian carrier group – the last major act of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean deployment.
UK flagship HMS Albion and supporting amphibious ship RFA Lyme Bay joined forces with ITS Giuseppe Garibaldi and her escorts in the central Mediterranean, as the British vessels make their way home.
Albion and Lyme Bay have formed the core of the UK’s Littoral Response Group which has spent the autumn conducting trials and exercises to help shape the amphibious forces and Royal Marines of the future.
After participation in NATO’s Mediterranean maritime security mission, Operation Sea Guardian, the British ships began the long journey home to the UK – which brought them into contact with the Italian Navy for some combined training.
The Garibaldi is home to AV-8B jump jets (the US-built version of the Harrier) which tested their ability to evade the British defences during an air defence exercise.
The carrier group – completed by frigate ITS Carlo Bergamini and tanker Stromboli – conducted combined training with Albion and Lyme Bay, from basic communications through to manoeuvring in close proximity, some helicopter ‘cross-decking’ and an anti-submarine exercise, before a ceremonial sail past prior as the two allies went their separate ways.
For the first time the Garibaldi hosted a Wildcat helicopter as 847 Naval Air Squadron touched down on the carrier’s 571ft-long deck… and the crew were promptly surprised by Italian hospitality.
“They even gave us a package containing a crate of Peroni and freshly-cooked pizzas,” said delighted pilot Captain Tom Arkell RM.
Albion’s Navigator Lieutenant Sam Furniss said both task groups had benefited from their time training together and the link-up had been a fitting finale to the deployment.
“The training was rich and provided all units with a challenge in operating together as one in order to counter a number of exercise threats,” he said.
“Although relatively short in duration, the knowledge and experience taken forward from this is invaluable and serves as a real highlight for both the UK’s commitment to NATO and RN operations in the Mediterranean Sea.”
Albion is due home in Plymouth later this week.