Royal Navy helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious is to play a major role in a Royal Marine amphibious exercise over the weekend as part of Exercise Joint Warrior. The Portsmouth-based landing platform will be providing the base to send hundreds of Marines from 42 Commando into Luce Bay in Galloway on the west coast of Scotland.
RAF Chinooks and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Sea Kings will drop the Marines several miles inland to attack two guerrilla-style targets at around 1.30am on Saturday morning.
A further contingent of Royal and Dutch Marines will be launched from HMS Bulwark and HNLMS Rotterdam onto the beach to push forward until they meet up with their colleagues.
“We will be defeating the enemy at one target and the Dutch will hit the second,” said Major David Ethell, second-in-command of 42 Cdo.
“For us this is the first time we have properly been on board a ship and it is all about us getting back to our amphibious capability.
“As a Marine this is what we joined up for, so completing these exercises to validate our role as the Lead Commando Group is hugely important.”
As the LCG, 42 Cdo remain at high-readiness – or five day’s notice to move – as a response to rapidly unfolding world events. The LCG is reinvigorating their core amphibious fighting skills under exercise Joint Warrior which is currently off the coast of Scotland.
A bi-annual exercise there are more than 30 warships and 65 aircraft taking part from participating countries such as the UK, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Canada and Sweden. These are all practising their own quick reaction tri-Service force – the Response Force Task Group.
The LCG forms an integral part of this by using HMS Illustrious and HMS Bulwark as their main bases to launch attacks and provide logistical support.
In this scenario, the two ships will get the Marines as close as possible to the shoreline without being detected by exercise staff.
“We are the entry force,” said Commanding Officer of HMS Illustrious Captain Martin Connell.
“We can fight our way in if necessary but maintaining the element of surprise is my preference and then the Marines can launch their operation ashore from our onboard aircraft.
“From there we have a sustained role where the aviation can either stay on Illustrious or they can stay ashore where they have the ability to set up their own headquarters as support.”
For Exercise Joint Warrior there are Fleet Air Arm Merlin and Sea King helicopters, RAF Chinnoks and Arm Apache and Lynx all working together on board HMS Illustrious as part of the flying operations.
“I think this is indicative of how the UK Armed Forces will work in the future, as entirely interoperable,” said Capt Connell.
“Exercises like this are ideal for that because we must all learn each other’s constraints, capabilities, issues and opportunities and there is a healthy respect of each in terms of what each of us can provide.
“Joint Warrior is a fantastic opportunity for commanders to capture all the tactical elements and combine that with things like live firing. This is a scenario that allows that to be done in a realistic manner.”
Once the LCG are ashore they will stay on the ground for several days before the Army’s 2 Parachute Regiment take their place for the culmination of the exercise to validate their own operational training.
Naval Today Staff, April 19, 2013; Image: Royal Navy