UK: HMS Sutherland Practises Winching Drills off Shores of Saudi Arabia


LAET Greg Coulter ‘dances‘ on the surface of the Indian Ocean as HMS Sutherland practises winching drills in the middle of a major amphibious exercise off the shores of Saudi Arabia.

The Devonport-based Type 23 frigate is the escort for the Cougar 11 task group – the Navy’s key deployment of the year with HMS Albion leading an amphibious force east of Suez.

And most recently that force has been operating off Saudi Arabia on a joint amphibious exercise with the kingdom’s forces, including beach landings and live fire drills by Royal Marines and their Saudi counter parts.

Further out to sea the Fighting Clan was conducting drills of her own with her 815 Naval Air Squadron Mk8 Lynx – callsign Sabre – in particular transfers from helicopter to sea boat.

The clear skies belie the fact that conditions for the tricky transfer – the frigate’s Pacific 24 rigid inflatable boats are only 25½ft wide (7.8m) and a mere 8½ft wide (2.5m) – were far from ideal with a difficult swell which made it hard for the aircrew, and the RIB’s coxswain, to manoeuvre the leading hand on the end of the winch safely down.

Red Alligator is now concluded but the Cougar group remains in the region for continued exercises and work with Allied military units.

The whole deployment is the first test of the new Response Force Task Group, formed as a result of last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review and is at the heart of the UK’s maritime.

Source: royalnavy, July 7, 2011;