RFA Fort Austin, HMS Illustrious Met Up during Cougar 13

RFA Fort Austin Meets HMS Illustrious on Cougar 13

Two ships deployed on Cougar 13 have met up mid Mediterranean for a swap of supplies vital to the operation. With over 45,000 tonnes of steel between them; HMS Illustrious and Royal Fleet Auxiliary supply ship, RFA Fort Austin, held a straight course while the exchange took place over a distance of less than 50 yards.

For Illustrious this is her second Replenishment at Sea (RAS) during Cougar 13 – the first was a fuel top up from the French ship FS Somme – but her first stores transfer.

A total of 17 pallets were moved back and forwards between the two ships under the watchful of Commander Logistics onboard HMS Illustrious, Cdr Phil Hally.

He said:

“The 17 pallets that were transferred were a combination of ammunition, general stores, oils and lubricants required to keep the Task Group in good working order.

“But it wasn’t a one way transfer as we were also able to offer Fort Austin supplies that she needs as well as sending across our waste which she will dispose of during her next port stop.”

Both ships are taking part in Cougar 13, a long planned Royal Navy exercise that sees the UK’s Response Force Task Group – formed under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review – honing its maritime skills thousands of miles from home through exercises with key allies.

The first exercise in the series is Albanian Lion where Royal Marines of the Lead Commando Group will land and move inland through a fictional hostile state.

After Albanian Lion the Task Group will move East of Suez and continue exercises with partners in the Gulf.

Cdr Hally added:

“Normally Illustrious will have a company of roughly 850 but during Cougar, with the additional Royal Marines and aircraft onboard, this figure can swell up to 1,200.

“We make use of supply ships like RFA Fort Austin by positioning them at strategic locations enroute and they then act as a warehouse meaning we can stay at sea indefinitely.

“The supplies that we have taken onboard will not only cover Illustrious but other ships in the Task Force as we will distribute them at a later stage in the exercise.”

Four Royal Navy ships and five Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels are taking part along with Royal Marines embarked in HMS Bulwark, RFA Mounts Bay and RFA Lyme Bay as well as a number of Army Commandos.

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