WARSHIPS from Portsmouth have joined with their Saudi Arabian counterparts for a major exercise in the Gulf.
Fleet flagship HMS Bulwark, helicopter and commando carrier HMS Illustrious and Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster joined with three warships from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fort Austin for Exercise Red Alligator.
It was the first major exercise the Royal Navy ships have been on since navigating the Suez Canal last week.
Over three days, the UK’s maritime rapid reaction force took part in a number of exercises to practise navigation skills and communication drills. Personnel from both navies were also given the chance to cross decks and stay on the different ships to experience life on board.
Royal Marine Captain Andy Atkins, based on HMS Bulwark as part of her Assault Squadron, said: ‘As their frigate is a French design, it was very similar internally to what we are used to in the Royal Navy.
‘I was made to feel very welcome and am very pleased that I was offered the chance to see how another navy operates at sea.’
The three ships are part of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group – the UK’s high readiness maritime force, comprising ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, who are at short notice to act in response to any contingency tasking if required by government.
As part of their annual Cougar 13 deployment, they have spent just over a month in the Mediterranean before moving on to the Red Sea, the Gulf and the Horn of Africa.
The deployment involves exercising with partner nations, such as the Saudi Arabians.