Numerous vessels are taking part in Cougar 11, this summer’s deployment of the Royal Navy’s new Response Force Task Group (RFTG).
Consisting of ships, aircraft and personnel held at very high readiness, the RFTG is at the heart of the UK’s ability to react at short notice to unforeseen global events.
Ships currently deployed include HMS Ocean, which is leading a second group of ships, consisting of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) support ships Wave Knight, Fort Rosalie and Mounts Bay, to join Cougar 11.
After a period of work-up training in UK waters, they will head to the Mediterranean where they will join amphibious assault ship HMS Albion, Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland (both Devonport-based) and landing ship RFA Cardigan Bay, all of which sailed from the UK at the beginning of April.
Their long-planned deployment as part of the RFTG will see them transit through the Mediterranean where they will take part in multinational amphibious exercises before moving further east through the Suez Canal for further exercises in the Indian Ocean.
The RFTG will be poised to respond to short-notice tasking across a diverse range of defence activities such as non-combatant evacuation operations, disaster relief, humanitarian aid or amphibious operations. This deployment is not linked to events in Libya which involve other elements of the UK Armed Forces.
Commodore John Kingwell, Commander UK Task Group, is embarked aboard flagship HMS Albion. He said:
“With the sailing of this second group, the Response Force Task Group is at full strength, and is ideally suited to respond to the uncertainties and instabilities that currently feature on the international landscape. This Task Group can operate at sea and in the air, and we will now commence a series of exercises to test versatility of this multi-role force.”
The largest warship in the Royal Navy, HMS Ocean, is carrying a mixture of support helicopters, Apache attack helicopters and landing craft. These enable her to land Royal Marines, their vehicles and equipment and sustain them as they undertake exercises across the region.
“The Response Force Task Group is at full strength, and is ideally suited to respond to the uncertainties and instabilities that currently feature on the international landscape.”
With an internal dock for landing craft, a large flight deck and accommodation for Royal Marines and their equipment, RFA Mounts Bay (like her sister ship Cardigan Bay) is ideally suited to operations the RFTG has been formed to undertake.
RFA Fort Rosalie is a fleet replenishment ship and will supply the RFTG with a range of stores, spares and equipment – anything from a missile to a chocolate bar. RFA Wave Knight is a fast fleet tanker able to provide the other ships with fuel to remain at sea for prolonged periods, greatly enhancing their ability to respond to unexpected events.
Commodore Bill Walworth of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary said:
“Over half the ships in Cougar 11 are from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, which highlights our strategic importance to the Royal Navy and our ability to sustain ships and embarked forces for as long as required. With the modern Bay Class landing ships, we are very much at the centre of amphibious operations.”
Cougar 11 is to demonstrate the RFTG concept – announced in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review and at the heart of the UK’s maritime contingent capability, the Task Group will be held at very high readiness to respond to unexpected global events.
It highlights the enduring need for the Armed Forces to plan and train for unforeseen events that may occur in parallel with the Defence main effort of current operations.
Initially, the Task Group will demonstrate its amphibious capabilities through multinational exercises in the Mediterranean, before conducting further exercises in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf.