More than 600 Royal UK Marines and 1500 sailors, soldiers and airman have arrived in the waters off the small Adriatic nation of Albanian as the first amphibious workout of the Response Force Task Group’s annual Cougar deployment gets underway.
Albanian Lion, as the exercise is called, will project Royal Marines from 40 Commando Royal Marines, ashore from Royal Navy Flagship HMS Bulwark, Landing Platform Helicopter HMS Ocean, and RFA Lyme Bay.
This is the fourth year that the Royal Navy has visited Albania during a Cougar deployment to work through various fighting scenarios which includes small craft simulated attacks on the warships, submarine threats and attack by fast jets.
Lieutenant Colonel Alex Jantzen, Commanding Officer 40 Commando Royal Marines said: “Exercises like this are a perfect way to start this year’s Cougar deployment, and Albania offers unique and demanding training areas. We are conducting Commando Raids, helicopters assaults and covert boat operations from our Royal Navy Task Group.
“These tasks are the bread and butter of a Royal Marines Commando and this type of training is essential to sharpening our skills as we sit at the tip of the spear of the Defence’s military options.
He continued: “The added complexity of working alongside our Albanian hosts, operating within a socially complex scenario and having all of that simulated on the ground adds real depth and interest to our training.
“It ensures that we are physically as well as intellectually and emotionally ready for any of the challenges which may lie ahead. It is this type of training that ensures we can enter the most demanding environments, thrive in adversity and make a difference.”
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, partners across government and partner nations when required.
Commodore Jerry Kyd, Commander United Kingdom Task Group, responsible for the ships in the Task Group, said: “Although the Cougar Task Group left home waters in August, a matter of weeks ago, it has been a busy time to get the ships and Royal Marines ready for this major amphibious exercise.
“But the hard work and dedication is vital in order for us to hone the Royal Navy’s war fighting capability, and important too in setting the tone and pace for the rest of the Cougar deployment as we head to a series of exercises with partner nations in the Gulf region.”
The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s Very High Readiness maritime force, comprising ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, at short notice to act in response to any contingency tasking if required which could include humanitarian disaster relief or international military intervention.
The last time the Cougar Task Group deployed HMS Illustrious was activated to sail to the Philippines to deliver much needed aid to islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in October 2013.
The Cougar 14 deployment will operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, the Gulf and Horn of Africa.
The deployment allows the UK’s maritime assets to exercise with multinational forces in the Gulf region, enhancing interoperability, testing its flexibility, to practice working with partner forces and to promote the UK’s interests overseas, demonstrating the Government’s long-term commitment to its allies in the Middle East.