Ex Cougar 12, Chinooks Build Bridges
Ex COUGAR 12 was the deployment of a Maritime Task Group element of the Response Force Task Group (RFTG). Its primary purpose was to generate and maintain contingent capability whilst supporting defence engagement and regional capacity building. It also provided an excellent opportunity to conduct joint operations with the US, French and Albanian Armed Forces in addition to developing the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) concept. Training in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas saw the Task Group link up with the French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle and carrying out large scale amphibious landings. COUGAR 12 will seek to build on the operational lessons identified from Ex COUGAR 11 in addition to the training objectives achieved during Ex COLD RESPONSE and Ex JOINT WARRIOR earlier this year. Aviation is essential to the RFTG and JHC supported the exercise with 2 x Apache, 2 x CH47 Chinook Mk2, 4 x Sea King Mk4 and 2 x Lynx Mk7 embarked on HMS ILLUSTRIOUS. The Commando Helicopter Force provided a command element in the form of Joint Helicopter Force (Cougar) (JHF(C)) embarked on HMS BULWARK. The exercise provided the JHF(C) with a consolidated period of training at range from the UK and represented a significant step forward in the recovery of contingent and Littoral Manoeuvre capability.
Before the Task Force headed into the southern approaches training was conducted off Cornwall. 4 Assault Sqn Royal Marines, and 24 Cdo Engr Regt conducted exercises using landing craft, hover craft and an 18(B) Sqn Chinook helicopter temporarily based from RNAS Culdrose.
The surface ships were operating from St Austell Bay with the surface elements and aircraft working between there and the beach at Carlyon Bay, one mile east of St Austell. The good weather meant that the public were out in force and they were treated to a wide range of military activities, from landing craft carrying vehicles to a Chinook carrying a bridge.
The Chinook was tasked with reviving a maritime bridge lift capability that had not been used in almost ten years. The crew worked with the RN MAOT aboard MV Hartland Point to ensure that the bridge was lifted cleanly and efficiently. Once ashore, the ground party from 24 Cdo Engr Regt manned the rigging lines attached to the bridge to ensure it was on the correct orientation before the crew lowered it to the ground. Once the load was disconnected the engineers quickly placed the ramps and deck in place to ensure the bridge was ready in quick time. Then, once the bridge had served its purpose, it was dismantled and lifted successfully back to MV Hartland Point.