UK: Lusty Gears Up for Cougar 13

Lusty Readies for Exercise Cougar 13

Portsmouth helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious is being put through her paces as she prepares for her autumn deployment on Exercise Cougar 13. Since May 20 and until June 13 Lusty has been based in Plymouth with Flag Officer Sea Training staff who are preparing the ship’s company for every possible eventuality.

As a result she has suffered ‘fires’ almost every day in the exercise scenarios, most of the ship’s company have been injured and suffered everything from minor burns to heart attacks and most of the 23000 ton aircraft carrier’s compartments have been flooded.

Under one of the stringent scenarios, HMS Illustrious was also hit by a container ship which caused severe structural damage, under another she had helicopters fall into the hangar which caused major fires and she has also suffered attacks from a hostile nation.

FOST offers world class intensive training to ships from the UK as they prepare to enter active service or before they deploy.

The training can be tailored to the specific parts of the world to which UK ships regularly travel. It is a mark of the success of FOST that ships from several other nations regularly benefit from the world class training on offer.

Everything is tested from the ability of the logistics staff to feed the ship’s company, through to how the medics deal with bumps, bruises, burns and heart attacks to the ability of the warfare staff to deal with multi axis missile and aircraft attacks whilst evading live submarines.

And every Thursday it all happens at the same time in a mini war that has been raging along the south coast for almost 50 years.

HMS Illustrious’ Commanding Officer, Captain Mike Utley, has experienced FOST training from both sides. He said:

 “In one of my recent appointments, I was responsible for the delivery of operational sea training. We have amazing facilities and resources here that bring us as close to real situations and high intensity war fighting as we can possibly get.

“Flag Officer Sea Training really makes the key difference in giving the Royal Navy the edge we need to succeed in everything we do.

“I must say, now that I am on the receiving end of the training that it is pretty tough! Everyone around the ship is buzzing because they have had the opportunity to do what they have been practising for a very long time.”

HMS Illustrious is expected to complete her Operational Sea Training package within the next few days before returning to Portsmouth for a maintenance period and some well earned leave.

She deploys in August with the Response Force Task Group on Exercise Cougar 13 – the aim of which is to test the RFTG’s response to rapidly-unfolding world events.

Press Release, June 11, 2013; Image: Royal Navy