A large-scale exercise which will see more than 600 Royal Marines hone their skills alongside their Albanian counterparts is now underway.
Exercise Albanian Lion is the first major outing for the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) – a Royal Naval force comprising 4 warships and 5 support vessels which are exercising in the Mediterranean and Gulf over the next 3 months under the name Cougar 13.
The exercise will see the Lead Commando Group of 42 Commando, the Royal Marines unit that stands ready to react to events anywhere in the world, carry out a series of mock assaults on enemy positions near Bise designed to improve their core amphibious warfare skills.
Ahead of the exercise, Colonel Kevin Oliver, Deputy Commander of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, met with Major General Xhemal Gjunkshi, Chief of General Staff of the Albanian Armed Forces, at Tirana International Airport.
Colonel Oliver said:
“Building on from last year’s exercise we have enhanced our contribution by providing a larger force comprising fast jets, helicopters, assault boats and armoured personnel carriers for ground manoeuvre and force protection.”
“We already have reconnaissance teams in place, as we would in a real-life scenario, who will guide in the landing force.”
“Once the forces have landed they will push forward through enemy terrain while being supported by the RFTG ships which can sustain them logistically and cover their progress with firepower should that be required:
“Albania has some of the best training areas ever used by our Task Group,” added Colonel Oliver. “We are extremely grateful for their use and for the chance to work alongside Albanian forces, sharing the experience of operations.”
The first men to arrive, predominantly from 42 Commando in Plymouth, stepped off their plane and immediately set about acclimatising to the rugged conditions and heat.
Already they have undertaken a series of river crossings, abseils and carried out mock assaults on enemy positions – all at heights ranging between 4,500 and 6,000ft.
The Cougar 13 deployment will operate in and around the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Gulf and the Horn of Africa. It involves exercising with partner nations and will demonstrate the capacity of UK Armed Forces to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world as part of the RFTG.
The RFTG is commanded by Commodore Paddy McAlpine from the fleet flagship, HMS Bulwark, and is the UK’s high readiness maritime force at 5 days’ notice to respond to any contingency tasking including humanitarian disaster relief or international military intervention.
UK MoD News