Warships ready to deploy on training exercise

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Thousands of sailors and marines are getting ready to leave on a deployment which will put their maritime skills to the test.

HMS Illustrious and HMS Westminster are due to leave Portsmouth for the Mediterranean and Gulf region on an operation called Cougar 13.

Members of HMS Westminster's ship's company store ship at HMNB Portsmouth, ready for her deployment. Picture: PO(Phot) Wheelie A'barrow

Members of HMS Westminster's ship's company store ship at HMNB Portsmouth, ready for her deployment. Picture: PO(Phot) Wheelie A'barrow

The deployment will see elements of the UK’s Response Force Task Group travel thousands of miles from home through exercises with a number of key allies.

Four Royal Navy warships, the Lead Commando Group from 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, and elements of naval air squadrons will be supported by five vessels from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Commodore Paddy McAlpine, Commander UK Task Group, said: ‘Cougar 13 is a bespoke opportunity to enhance the Royal Navy’s enduring core skill – the ability to operate and project power as a task group at range.

‘In so doing, it will also remind interested domestic and international parties of the enduring utility, employability and interoperability of the Royal Navy.

‘During Cougar 13 we will engage with our partner nations through a series of exercises, reinforcing our commitment and demonstrating our contribution to security in the Mediterranean and Gulf region.’

The ships taking part in Cougar 13 are HMS Bulwark, HMS Illustrious, RFA Mounts Bay, RFA Lyme Bay, HMS Montrose, HMS Westminster, RFA Fort Austin, RFA Fort Victoria, RFA Cardigan Bay, and RFA Diligence.

As reported in The News, elements of the task force are also due to visit Gibraltar.

After a number of port visits in the Mediterranean, the first major exercise for the force will be Albanian Lion, in the Adriatic.

Servicemen and women will work with Albania’s armed forces, building on a similar exercise carried out last year, with the goal of putting the Lead Commando Group ashore.

The ships will then sail through the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf, where the focus will transfer to a series of exercises with UK allies in the Gulf region.

The majority of the task group is due to return home in December, although HMS Westminster will remain east of Suez into the new year.

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