Two Sea King Mk 4 helicopters and 52 personnel of 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) recently deployed on Exercise Albanian Lion, along with two full companies from 40 Commando Royal Marines, for what will be one of the last overseas deployment of this type for the venerable ‘King’ of the Junglies.
Exercise Albanian Lion is the first phase of the Cougar deployment, a UK Armed Forces’ major overseas amphibious exercise.
Initially, A Flight, 845 NAS conducted helicopter work-up serials (“Fly-Ex”) with RFA Lyme Bay, HMS Bulwark, HMS Ocean and RFA Waveknight in order to deliver training for all involved personnel and develop safe and efficient working practices.
Exercise Albanian Lion culminated in a simulated large-scale amphibious assault in Albania. The detachment was able to provide round-the-clock availability of both aircraft for tasking.
Working closely with RAF Chinooks crews, operating from the capital Tirana, two companies of elite Royal Marine Commandos were swiftly delivered from the Task Group to their objectives in two major assaults over a four day period.
All of this was achieved with a detailed tactical overlay that effectively reflected a modern complex battlefield; all planned, controlled and conducted from the impressive Command and Control hub onboard HMS Bulwark.
The detachment saw the first Junglie use of a synthetic Temporary Aircraft Shelter (TAS), which had been erected on the flight deck of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Lyme Bay.
With Albanian Lion complete, and the aircraft having flown an impressive 80 hours, the Task Group heads South through Suez. The period sees the flight working with a German, US and French ships.
Press Release, October 14, 2014; Image: UK Navy