Royal Naval Reservists have been playing their part in exercises on board the Royal Navy’s Landing Platform Helicopter ship, HMS Ocean, with a high tempo, fast moving scenario.
The Plymouth-based ship only recently came out of a major refit and has been regenerating her Ship to Objective Manoeuvre (STOM) capability while in exercise in the Mediterranean.
This is the ability of HMS Ocean to quickly take something to the place where it is needed most – be it Royal Marines ashore to launch an attack or humanitarian aid to disaster zones.
While on Cougar 14 – the annual workout of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, which includes HMS Ocean – the ship practised a number of serials led by Amphibious Operations Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Gosney.
Assisted by veteran STOM watchkeepers Lieutenant Commander Clive Langmead RNR of HMS Forward and Lt Andy Linton RNR of HMS Eaglet, they gradually increased the training tempo by using both landing craft and Merlin Mark 2 helicopters of 820 Naval Air Squadron.
The drills included practising dropping personnel and stores ashore and preparing vehicles and equipment to be flown ashore by helicopters using under slung loads.
A highly skilled manoeuvre, the weight of the load must be perfectly and evenly distributed for the helicopter to fly safely with it netted underneath. The last time this was done for real was during Op Patwin when HMS Daring and HMS Illustrious’ helicopters flew UK Aid to outlying islands.
HMS Ocean’s onboard team of Royal Marines – 9 Assault Squadron – also got in on the action during Exercise Albanian Lion, one of a series of exercises under the wider Cougar deployment.
Despite stormy, rough seas the men of 9ASRM practised Landing Craft Personnel (LCVP) operations and beach recces where they had to get from the ship via landing craft to scope out potential areas of conflict.
The Marines also practised their capsize drills and transferring passengers while at sea using the two landing craft.
Following the various exercises HMS Ocean, replenished her stores and fuel with Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Wave Knight and took part in a quickdraw exercise where the ship’s company must quickly fight off waterbourne attackers.
HMS Ocean is now due to take part in a two-exercise with the French Navy called Ex Gabian.