A Royal Navy amphibious response force has sailed for the Mediterranean on a European security mission alongside NATO allies and partners.
More than a thousand sailors and Royal Marines have been deployed as part of Littoral Response Group North, which is a force designed to deploy to places strategically important to the UK, with a particular focus on Europe.
The response force is led by amphibious flagship HMS Albion and is made up of three helicopter squadrons, Royal Marines of 45 Commando, support ships RFA Argus and RFA Mounts Bay, tanker RFA Tidesurge, plus Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender – the group’s powerful escort warship.
In the coming months, the task group will operate closely with allies and partners, forging closer bonds with operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and the Adriatic.
It builds on the response group’s work in the Arctic earlier this year and in the Baltic in 2021.
Captain Simon Kelly Royal Navy, task group commander and commanding officer of HMS Albion, said: “For the second time this year the sailors and Royal Marines of the Royal Navy’s Littoral Response Group North have deployed.
“Building on our recent operations in the challenging environment of the Arctic Circle, we now face a different challenge in the Mediterranean, a region that is vital for European security.
“Throughout the coming months we will continue to develop the Littoral Strike concept, as well as building relationships with our international partners, as we demonstrate the UK’s commitment to the region.”
The deployment will also see an element of experimentation, developing tactics and equipment as Royal Marines Commandos continue to look at new ways of operating to counter the threats of a modern era.
The response force has already visited Rota in Spain after carrying out replenishments with RFA Tidesurge off the coast of Portugal before heading into Gibraltar.
This came after amphibious warfare exercises near Plymouth, putting the final touches to preparations for the deployment. It saw 45 Commando launched ashore from landing craft from HMS Albion’s 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines and maneuver in land.
Commander George Storton, commanding officer of HMS Defender, said: “With experience of task group operations around the globe, Defender’s ship’s company is excited to operate as part of the Littoral Response Group North.
“The team are looking forward to the challenge of supporting amphibious operations and exercises with key allies and partners.”
Among the unique capabilities of this task group is the enhanced medical facilities on board RFA Argus.
These consist of an operating theaters, critical care and emergency medicine beds, a CT scanner, as well as hospital wards, with a wide range of specialist medical staff from intensive care specialist to mental health nurses.
Argus is also home to Wildcat and Merlin helicopters from Commando Helicopter Force’s 847 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons during the deployment. These navy fliers – based at RNAS Yeovilton – are tasked with providing aerial support for commandos wherever they are operating.
Captain Richard Davies Royal Fleet Auxiliary, commanding officer of RFA Argus, said: “Argus is a hugely versatile ship. The medical facility provides support from critical care through to more routine treatments.
“Our embarked Merlin and Wildcat helicopters, along with our large flight deck and hangar, provide the airlift to the task group which underpins amphibious operations. We also have a unique crew construct, whilst predominantly Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Royal Navy, we also have representation from the Army and Royal Air Force.”