Exercise Albanian Lion Kicks Off

Exercise Albanian Lion Kicks Off

Under cover of darkness the first landing craft stealthily departed HMS Bulwark marking the start of exercise Albanian Lion. Over the course of four days hundreds of Royal Marines, supported by Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels as well as elements of the Army, will enter a fictional nation and attempt to defeat an insurgent group and restore stability.

In reality Albanian Lion is the first in a series of exercises making up Cougar 13, the Royal Navy’s annual deployment of its high readiness Response Force Task Group (RFTG).

Over the next four months the RFTG; comprising four warships, five supply vessels as well as the Lead Command Group of 42 Commando, will undertake several exercises in the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf whilst also conducting counter piracy and capacity building missions.

Taking part in the first wave of the Albanian Lion assault were more than 300 Royal Marine Commandos.

In pitch black conditions with only cyalumes (glow sticks) to guide them the commandos effortlessly kitted up with ammunition and stores.

Then they silently departed Bulwark in a combination of Offshore Raiding Craft (ORCs) and Landing Craft, headed for the shores of Albania where the exercise got underway.

Capt Andy Atkinson, Officer Commanding Support Troop for the Assault Squadron on Bulwark, said:

“The first stage of the exercise is the entry into theatre and we attempted to carry this out as quickly and silently as possible through a beach landing.

“Once ashore the commandos then established communications and will consider their next move for the push inland.”

Far above them a Merlin helicopter from 814 Naval Air Squadron was watching their progress, relaying information back to the Command Operations Room in Bulwark.

Information received in this way helps to build a picture of how the commandos are faring as well as any potential obstacles or dangers they face in coming days.

“As the Marines landed on a narrow beach, undertook a cliff assault, and faced crossing a peninsula, having this eye-in-the-sky is an invaluable asset,” added Capt Atkinson.

Exercise Albanian Lion is being played out around the Albanian city of Vlore on the Adriatic coast, and is a bilateral exercise between the Royal Navy and Albanian Armed Forces.

the subject is the first major outing for the RFTG under Cougar 13, but has been months in the planning.

Petty Officer Chris Aspin, the Operations Room Manager onboard Bulwark, said:

“Albanian Lion has finally entered the execution phase, we have entered action stations, all of the deployed ships are on high alert, and as a team we must fulfil our mission.

“The Combined Operations Room is the nerve centre of Albanian Lion, the experts are gathered here and are advising the Marines on the ground, it is our role to ensure the operation runs smoothly and that we recover our men.”

Albanian Lion will run throughout this week before the RFTG leaves Albania heading for the Red Sea, Arabian Gulf and Horn of Africa exercising with partner nations and demonstrating the UK Armed Forces capability.

The RFTG is at five days notice to act in response to any contingency tasking including humanitarian disaster relief or international military intervention.

Press Release, September 02, 2013; Image: Royal Navy