Navy to send three more ships to Mediterranean

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THE Royal Navy is sending a task force to the Mediterranean as war rages in Libya.

HMS Albion, HMS Sutherland, and RFA Cardigan Bay, together with 40 Commando Royal Marines, will leave for the Mediterranean and Middle East this week.

The Ministry of Defence maintains the mobilisation of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) is not linked to events in Libya.

However, it is understood RFTG could be called upon for Libyan operations if it is needed.

The RFTG is commanded from the fleet flagship, HMS Albion, by Commodore John Kingwell, under the name Operation Cougar.

He called the operation ‘an important opportunity to develop international interoperability and build long-term defence relationships, and for the RFTG to demonstrate operational contingent capability,’ adding: ‘It is a great privilege to lead such a versatile force and I thank all those ashore who have worked so hard over the last week to make this possible.’

The MoD said the ships and their embarked marines will be deploying to develop and demonstrate contingent capability for UK defence – in effect, the ability to respond at short notice to perform a ‘diverse range of defence activities’, including disaster relief, humanitarian aid, or amphibious operations of the kind needed for a ground assault in Libya.

The six-month deployment will see the ships take part in amphibious exercises in the Mediterranean before moving further east through the Suez canal for further exercises in the Indian Ocean.