Britain’s Flagship HMS Albion Leads Cougar Task Force East of Suez


Britain’s flagship HMS Albion has passed through the Suez Canal as the Navy’s key deployment of 2011 resumes.

Events in Libya saw the assault ship, her escorting frigate HMS Sutherland and tanker RFA Wave Knight, plus helicopter carrier HMS Ocean and ‘floating warehouse’ RFA Fort Rosalie, diverted to support the NATO mission there.

The ships formed the bulk of the Cougar 11 deployment – the first ‘run out’ for the newly-formed RN Response Force Task Group, deploying an amphibious force to the Mediterranean and Middle East.

After the first major exercise of the group in and around Cyprus, however, the quintet were dispatched to the Gulf of Sirte as part of the international military effort helping the free peoples of Libya – and bringing pressure to bear on the Gaddafi regime.

Ocean, whose Apache gunships have been much in demand over the past fortnight, plus Rosalie remain on station off Libya, but Albion, Sutherland and Wave Knight have returned to their original mission.

Passing through Egypt’s great manmade waterway means they’ll link up with a substantial RN/RFA presence (at least ten warships and auxiliaries are in the Indian Ocean and Gulf region presently) and fall under the banner of the UK Maritime Component Commander, the senior Royal Navy officer in this part of the world, Cdre Tim Fraser, based in Bahrain.

He’s looking forward to making use of the new arrivals to assist the global effort against piracy, smuggling, drug-running and terrorism in the region.

“The Middle East is a vital artery of world trade, linking Europe and America with the Far East. Over 23,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year. The work of the Royal Navy in this part of the world is invaluable to the UK’s own defence and security as well as that of the wider region,”

He said.

“The Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group will strengthen some of the UK’s key relationships and will make an important contribution to international efforts to promote maritime security.”

“The Response Force Task Group is the UK’s maritime quick reaction force and has a range of capabilities that make it ideally suited to the fast pace and unpredictable nature of world events,”

said Albion’s Commanding Officer Capt James Morley.

“Having developed and demonstrated our capabilities through a series of exercises and operations in the Mediterranean, the task group is now ready for the next stage of our deployment east of Suez.”

The Cougar vessels will work with other Royal Navy and allied warships stationed in the Middle East for a series of pre-planned exercises and operations with regional partners.
Source: royal-navy, June 16, 2011;