Royal Navy contigency plans to evacuate British tourists from Egypt

Fortuitously, a Royal Navy task force is heading to the region as part of its annual Operation Cougar deployment.

Navy on standby to rescue Britons in Egypt

THE Royal Navy was on standby last night to evacuate British tourists from Egypt as the country teeters on the brink of civil war.

HMS Illustrious and flotilla of warships were placed on high alert to rescue Britons

With up to 40,000 Britons on holiday in Red Sea resorts, the aircraft carrier Illustrious and a flotilla of warships were placed on high alert to rescue them and other UK nationals should the violence escalate.

The move follows a week of bloodshed in which more than 1,000 people have been killed in clashes between supporters of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood regime and the forces of the interim military government.

Senior officers at the Permanent Joint Headquarters of the Armed Forces in Northwood, Middlesex, whose role is to monitor world events, are poised to react if politicians call for military intervention.

Illustrious, the assault ship Bulwark and a fleet of frigates and support ships are heading towards Gibraltar for a series of war games which is also due to take them through the Red Sea.

A top Naval source told the Sunday Express: “The planning team will be looking at all options and making sure we are ready to evacuate British nationals if it comes to that or in a worst-case scenario intervene to rescue UK citizens taken hostage.

“We have a desk officer who will know where we can fly into, who we can liaise with, where the majority of UK passports live and have at least a dozen local people who we can call on to help us.

“As well as tourists, we have British nationals inside Cairo and other areas and this is now very much a waiting game. It is all about the political decision- making process, based on the intelligence information collated at GCHQ. Our role is to be ready.”

The Government is under growing pressure to warn British tourists to stay away from Egypt amid fears they will become ­targets in the violence.

The Foreign Office has advised against travel to Sinai, Cairo and Alexandria but given the green light to popular Red Sea destinations such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.

Tens of thousands of Britons are due to fly there this week.

The bloodshed in Egypt has continued, with more than 1,000 killed in clashes.

The US, France, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium have all advised their citizens to avoid Egypt. Thailand is preparing to evacuate 2,000 of its nationals.

Last night Britons in Marsa Alam, near Sharm el-Sheikh, were under virtual curfew. Lawrence Aston, 52, from Bromley, Kent, on holiday with his wife and two sons, said: “We would have gone elsewhere if we’d have known what was going to happen.

“The Foreign Office still say it’s OK to come here but I don’t know how much longer that can last.

“The tour operators are toeing a dangerous line as there’s no way of telling if Westerners could become a target or if this could become a civil war.”

Sally Asling told how her hotel in Hurghada had bolstered security after a protest nearby in which one man was reportedly shot dead.

She said: “It is unsettling how quickly things kick off.”

British tourists say they have little choice but to carry on with their trips as they face up to £600 in cancellation fees.

Yesterday travellers arriving at London Heathrow from Cairo described the scramble to get home.

Jamie Griffiths, 41, a music teacher from Swansea, said: “I was so lucky to get out of there. It was chaos at the airport because there were no police there. My taxi driver had to take loads of detours.”

Egyptian-born Fadia Matta, 62, who lives in the UK, said: “The people are crazy. They have burnt a lot of churches. They have stolen a whole museum. It is very sad.”

British Airways is still flying to Cairo but has adjusted its schedules around curfew times imposed by Egyptian authorities.

It is allowing passengers to change destinations.

A spokeswoman said: “We are keeping the situation in Egypt under constant review.”

Last night MPs called for clearer information for travellers heading to Egypt. Conservative Bill Cash said: “People are the best judges of their own safety but I think they need to be warned specifically of the unpredictability of the situation.”

Labour’s Ann Clwyd said: “I would have thought the travel advice would have been beefed up as anything could happen at any time at any place given the extreme situation in the country.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/18/gibraltar-reef-protest-flotilla-royal-navy-police

Royal Navy deploys for Operation Cougar ’13

For the much-reduced Royal Navy and “austerity Britain”, this is a *BIG* deployment.

Royal Navy sails for annual ‘Cougar’ deployment

Thousands of Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel will leave the UK on Monday (12 August) for an annual deployment to the Mediterranean and Gulf region – Cougar ’13.

HMS Bulwark. Photograph by LA(Phot) Joel Rouse

The long-planned deployment will see elements of the UK’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) – the naval force formed under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review – hone its world class maritime skills 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.

RFA Mounts Bay. Photograph by LA(Phot) Joel Rouse

This is the third time the deployment has taken place, after Cougars ’11 and ’12, with its aim to demonstrate the ability to operate a highly effective maritime force anywhere in the world to protect UK interests.

Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond MP, said:

“Since its creation under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Response Force Task Group has demonstrated its formidable strength and readiness to respond to emerging threats worldwide through a number of operations and exercises.

“This now routine and long-planned deployment will demonstrate once again its ability to operate as a rapid reaction force on behalf of the UK and, importantly, underlines the global reach and flexibility of the modern Royal Navy.”

The Task Group is able to conduct simultaneously a range of operations from deterring adversaries and maritime security to international engagement and supporting regional stability.

Its units can operate independently on discrete tasks or as a single entity.

Most importantly, it is an adaptable force that is able to work jointly with Army and Royal Air Force assets, other government agencies and partner nations when required.

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

Personnel will work with Albania’s armed forces, building on a similar exercise last year, with the goal to put the Lead Commando Group ashore within a high tempo scenario and sustain it as it moves inland.

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

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.”

Commodore McAlpine and his staff will command from the nation’s flagship HMS Bulwark. Alongside Brigadier Stuart Birrell (Commander of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines) he will choreograph the efforts of Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary sailors, Royal Marine Commandos and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm personnel.

Joining Bulwark will be Portsmouth-based helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious and frigates HMS Montrose (Plymouth) and HMS Westminster (Portsmouth) to provide escort duties, as well as undertake ongoing counter-piracy operations outside the exercise programme.

HMS Illustrious. Photo by LA(Phot) Gary Weatherston

HMS Montrose is also due to reprise her role from Cougar ‘12 as the launch pad for small Royal Marines reconnaissance parties, which are sent ashore to scout the lie of the land and ‘enemy’ forces.

HMS Montrose. Photo by PO(Phot) Wheelie A’barrow

The Royal Marines will be embarking HMS Bulwark, RFA Mounts Bay and RFA Lyme Bay: the nation’s Lead Commando Group, including 42 Commando, elements of 30 Commando IX Group, and the Commando Logistics Regiment who will meet all the supply and medical needs and 16 Vikings of the Corps’ Armoured Support Group.

A number of Army Commandos from 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery and 24 Commando Engineer Regiment will also deploy as part of the Lead Commando Group.

Brigadier Stuart Birrell, Commander 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, said:

“Cougar ’13 provides a superb opportunity to demonstrate the capability and capacity of the Response Force Task Group and the Lead Commando Group. Operating in a wide variety of countries across the Mediterranean and Gulf region, the task group will engage in capacity building and defence engagement with a range of partner nations, in some truly outstanding exercises.

“A demanding and ambitious deployment, we will look forward to the challenges and opportunities that Cougar ’13 presents.”

RFA Fort Austin will provide stores, fuel, water, and ammunition and RFA Diligence is on hand to attend to any of the Cougar ’13 ship’s engineering requirements.

RFA Fort Austin. Photo by LA(PHOT) Claire Jones

The majority of the Task Group is due home to the UK in December, although Diligence, Westminster and Montrose are due to remain east of Suez in support of the Navy’s long-standing mission in the region to keep the sea lanes safe and secure for lawful trade.

http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/News-and-Events/Latest-News/2013/August/09/130809-Cougar-13