Royal Marines storm Albanian submarine base

The Response Force Task Group (RFTG) is Britain’s high-readiness amphibious task force, established following the 2012 SDSR. The Lead Commando Group (LCG) is drawn from 3 Commando Brigade and provides a scalable force able to deploy worldwide to meet crises.

Royal Marines launch amphibious raid on abandoned submarine base

An enemy position is destroyed by a simulated air attack during the Commando Assault onto Sazan Island. The training took place near to Vlore in Albania, as part of Exercise Albanian Lion 13. Photo by PO(Phot) Sean Clee

As dawn broke over an abandoned former Cold War submarine base a series of explosions announced the arrival of the Royal Marines as they began a full scale amphibious attack. As part of Exercise Albanian Lion, the Marines landed on the shores of Sazan island and, amid a scenario based around smugglers, social unrest and the rise of terrorist groups, the Commandos attacked the hostile nation from the sea by climbing cliff faces in darkness to surprise the enemy.

The personnel of 42 Commando, based in Plymouth, and part of the Lead Commando Group (LCG), are honing their skills for contingent operations – where they must be ready to react at a moment’s notice – as part of the Royal Navy deployment named Cougar 13.

Unbeknown to the ‘smugglers’ hiding out on the Albanian island, they had been observed for the last few days by the Royal Marines Surveillance Reconnaissance Squadron (SRS).

Once a picture had been built of the enemy locations the initial dawn attack was initiated by explosions which simulated bombs dropped from RAF Hawk Jets.

Troops from J, K & M companies, 42 Commando then started the ground assault of enemy stronghold locations, storming and surprising their enemy.

The attack, which lasted eleven hours, saw the commandos clear their way through a maze of tunnels and buildings gathering information for further operations over the next few days.

Royal Marines clearing buildings during a Commando Assault onto Sazan Island. The training took place near to Vlore in Albania, as part of Exercise Albanian Lion 13. Photo by PO(Phot) Sean Clee

Sazan Island, as well as being an old Soviet submarine base, used to be home to a chemical and biological weapons plant and there are more than 100 buildings and 5.7 square kilometres of trenches and bunkers.

The island now is uninhabited but there is a small manned naval base, used mainly to counter contraband routes between southern Italy and Albania.

A Royal Marine looks out for enemy during a Commando Assault onto Sazan Island. The training took place near to Vlore in Albania, as part of Exercise Albanian Lion 13. Photo by PO(Phot) Sean Clee

During the exercise the Troops were visited by Major General Xhemal Gjunkshi, Chief of Defence of the Armed forces of the Republic of Albania and Ambassador of the UK Mr Nicholas Cannon.

They were escorted around the vast training area by Deputy Commander of 3 Commando Brigade, Colonel Kevin Oliver.

Colonel Oliver said:

“We are delighted to be here with our NATO allies for the third year running. The facilities are some of the best training areas the task group has ever used.

“We are extremely grateful for the use of their facilities and for the chance to work alongside the Albanian forces sharing experiences and operations.”

The Commanding Officer of 42 Commando Royal Marines (far left) runs the Deputy Brigade Commander, 3 Commando Brigade (right), the British Ambassador to Albania (centre)and the Chief of Defence of the Armed Forces of Albania (left centre) through the Commando Assault onto Sazan Island. The training took place near to Vlore in Albania, as part of Exercise Albanian Lion 13. Photo by PO(Phot) Sean Clee

Over the subsequent 96 hours the Marines held further assaults onto positions 150km away as well as an evacuation with British embassy staff which saw British nationals safely extracted from a hostile environment.

As part of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, the LCG is projected from sea by Royal Navy warships into troublespots across the globe as dictated by government.

Lieutenant David Kirk, Troop Commander of 5 Troop, K Company, led the initial assault and said:

“Moving up through the valley was pretty challenging, you’ve got a lot of kit on and the heat even at night time is considerable.”

“Our part of the attack lasted about six hours and although challenging, all our aims were achieved.

“We knew it was going to be difficult before we started so we mentally prepared ourselves beforehand and just pushed on through.”

A Royal Marine GPMG gunner keeps a watchful eye out for enemy during a Commando Assault onto Sazan Island. The training took place near to Vlore in Albania, as part of Exercise Albanian Lion 13. Photo by PO(Phot) Sean Clee

www.royalnavy.mod.uk/News-and-Events/Latest-News/2013/September/04/130904-RM-raid-on-sub-base

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