The ship’s company of HMS Illustrious has hosted the President of Albania, His Excellency Mr Bujar Nishani, as exercise Albanian Lion draws to an end. Albanian Lion was the first major workout for the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) as part of Cougar 13 – a long planned deployment that left the UK in mid August.
Carried out in the waters and mountains around the coastal city of Vlore, this bilateral exercise provided the perfect training ground for amphibious assaults, deterring adversaries, supporting land forces, reassuring allies and testing the evacuation process of large numbers of British and EU citizens.
President Nishani said:
“I believe that the biggest benefit of this joint exercise is indeed the establishment and consolidation of friendship and cooperation between our two armed forces.”
The RFTG was established following the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010 and focuses on contingency, protecting the UK and her overseas territories as well as her allies, promoting the UK economy and building on existing relationships.
The TG comprises four Royal Navy warships, the Lead Commando Group from 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and elements of Naval Air Squadrons, supported by five vessels from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
A number of Army Commandos from 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery and 24 Commando Engineer Regiment are also deployed as part of the Lead Commando Group.
During his time aboard Illustrious, President Nishani reviewed the ship’s Ceremonial Guard, watched an aviation fly pass, discussed surveillance and reconnaissance techniques with Royal Marines and talked with the ship’s boarding party before being shown an amphibious capability demonstration.
President Nishani said:
“I am aware of the fact that this is the biggest exercise of this magnitude that the British forces have conducted recently in the Mediterranean region.
“Joint exercises forge higher professional standards, most valued by our militaries, especially today as a member country of NATO.
“I also believe and hope that the experience and background earned during the joint exercises of recent years will serve for other exercises of this kind until the establishment of a sustainable tradition in this regard.”
The scenario for exercise Albanian Lion was that the RFTG had been called upon by a fictitious country’s government to help restore stability in the nation, which had been plagued by insurgents.
Under cover of darkness 42 Commando Royal Marines of the Lead Commando Group entered the country using conventional amphibious landing and inshore raiding craft discharged from the RFTG ships, which in turn also provide the land forces with logistic, air and communication support.
Over the course of a number of days the Green Berets pushed inland in rugged, hot conditions; gradually gaining control of different regions, carrying out assaults on insurgents and having to deal with in scenario mass evacuations.
Commandant General Royal Marines and Commander UK Amphibious Forces, Major General Ed Davis, said:
“This year’s exercise Albanian Lion is the third partnership building exercise between the British Naval Service and the Albanian Armed Forces, in the same number of years.
“Each year the trust between our countries’ sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen grows; the personal and institutional understanding gets deeper, the individual and collective training benefits gets greater, and, most importantly, the partnership gets stronger.
“As the Commander of Britain’s Royal Marines, I could not be more grateful to the Government of Albania and the Albanian Armed Forces for their vision, flexibility and generosity in allowing the UK’s Response Force Task Group to train in Albania.
“We could not have been better supported; nor made to feel more welcome.”
Cougar 13 will now move into the Red Sea, the Gulf and Horn of Africa for further exercises.
Press Release, September 09, 2013; Image: Royal Navy