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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
RFA Argus is the Royal Navy’s primary casualty receiving facility (PCRF). She is not a hospital ship (as defined by the Geneva Conventions) and carries weapons systems for self-defence and counter-piracy/counter-narcotics operations.
A&P completes Five Month refit of RFA Argus
A&P Falmouth has just completed a multi-million pound refit of Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Argus as part of the company’s through life support “cluster” contract with the Ministry of Defence.
Work started on January 21 this year and was completed in late June 13, involving an average of 200 A&P staff during the six month contract.
The work included upgrading lifeboats and davits, overhaul of the main engines, installation of an incinerator and shredder, new engine control systems, refurbishment of the ship’s hospital and a five-year paint and preservation package.
A&P Falmouth’s contract with the MOD for the long term maintenance of RFA ships was originally signed in 2008 and earlier this year was extended by five years, taking it to 2018 following a value for money review.
‘Grey’ ships now account for 50% of A&P Falmouth’s business.
Gerald Pitts, A&P’s Cluster Director, said: “It’s been a real team effort between A&P and the Ministry of Defence. This was an intricate job but thanks to meticulous planning, design development and equipment procurement that the cluster contract affords us, together with the excellent project management and hard work from the workforce, we’re delighted to have completed this complex refit. Value for money and quality of service are what this contract is all about.”
Kevin Murray, RFA Argus Cluster team Leader for the MOD, said: “The co-operation and close ties forged between A&P and the Ministry of Defence ensures that complex projects like the Argus refit are completed to a high standard which in turn delivers high levels of platform availability for Navy Command’.
RFA Argus is a Primary Casualty Receiving Facility, able to treat up to 100 casualties at a time ensuring wounded service personnel of any nationality can receive rapid medical care on operations. She also provides specialist aviation training facilities.
The Italian-built ship was originally a container ship and was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War. This summer RFA Argus can be seen playing a starring role in the Brad Pitt zombie blockbuster World War Z, parts of which were filmed aboard in Falmouth in 2011.
In addition to RFA Argus under the cluster contract, A&P Falmouth also provides Through Life Support including refit and maintenance periods to RFA Mounts Bay, Cardigan Bay and Lyme Bay.
Lyme Bay is in Falmouth now undergoing routine maintenance and is due to leave in mid July 13. RFA Mounts Bay is due in Falmouth in late July 13 for further equipment upgrades before deployment and Argus will be back in August for final checks before deployment.