Thousands of Royal UK Navy, Royal Marine and Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel have left the UK for an annual exercise in the Mediterranean and Gulf regions.
Two Royal Navy warships, the Lead Commando Group from 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines (40 Commando) and elements of Naval Air Squadrons, together with two ships from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, have now departed the UK.
They will be joined on Cougar 14 by a range of other Royal Navy and RFA ships, as well as those from partner nations, during their deployment.
The ships form part of the UK’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) which regularly practices its world class maritime skills, and is designed to be deployed in emergency situations, thousands of miles from home.
The last time the RFTG was deployed HMS Illustrious was activated to sail to the Philippines to carry much needed aid for islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in October 2013.
This is the fourth deployment for the Task Group which will demonstrate its ability to operate a highly effective maritime force anywhere in the world to protect UK interests. The Task Group is able to conduct simultaneously a range of operations from deterring adversaries and maritime security to international engagement and supporting regional stability.
As in the case of Cougar 13, the Task Group can operate as a combination of units or as a single entity.
Most importantly, it is an adaptable force that is able to work jointly with Army and RAF assets, other Government agencies and partner nations when required.
Commodore Jerry Kyd, Commander UK Task Group, said: “Cougar 14 is the Navy’s routine annual deployment of a maritime Task Group away from home waters.
“It demonstrates powerfully the enduring utility, employability and interoperability of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines at range from the UK.
“The Task Group will exercise and operate with many other countries and their Navies, reinforcing the international community’s commitment to security and stability throughout the Mediterranean and Gulf regions.”
Cdre Kyd and his staff command from the nation’s flagship HMS Bulwark, choreographing efforts alongside Brigadier Charlie Stickland, Commander 3 Commando Brigade.
The amphibious command and control ship, carrying Royal Marines and a range of all-terrain vehicles, is accompanied by HMS Ocean, RFA Lyme Bay and RFA Wave Knight. The RFA ships will provide fuel, stores, water and ammunition to ensure Ocean and Bulwark are kept sustained for the deployment.
In preparation for Cougar 14, HMS Bulwark has loaded her decks with over 50 vehicles including a number of Viking armoured amphibious vehicles, Land Rovers, trucks and logistic machinery. She has also made ready to operate Sea King, Merlin and Chinook helicopters from her flight deck for extended periods.
Shortly before departing UK waters, HMS Bulwark embarked additional Royal Marines from across 3 Commando Brigade, and over 100 specialist personnel required to command and control the Task Group and all of the exercises and engagement activities.
Captain Dean Bassett, the Commanding Officer of HMS Bulwark, said: “Cougar 14 is a strategically important deployment for HMS Bulwark and marks the culmination of a huge amount of hard work by my ship’s company over the past few months to ensure we are able to support Cougar 14.”
He added: “The deployment not only demonstrates to our partners and allies just how flexible and versatile maritime forces can be, it also physically embodies how the Naval Service protects the nation’s interests overseas.”