Ex Cougar 12, Junglies Make the French Connection
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.
Chasing Pirates Off The Barbary Coast’; could have been a chapter heading taken from a Robert Louis Stephenson novel involving swashbuckling sea captains. But this is all part of the scenario for Ex Corsican Lion, the UK and French Amphibious Ex taking place off the coast of Corsica, which has been renamed `Barbary Coast’ for the week and the Pirates are a make-believe enemy.
Sea Kings from CHF deployed Royal Marines alongside their French counterparts ashore from the RFTG, working as part of the new CJEF.
The UK group, with up to 3,000 Sailors and Marines from the RFTG and French Naval Forces and Marines from the 2nd RiMa Regt, met up in the Northern Mediterranean. The French Carrier Strike group, based around the nuclear powered Flagship FS Charles De Gaulle, carries up to 40 fixed wing aircraft; a mixture of fighters, bombers and reconnaissance planes. Corsican Lion is the first major naval exercise to test the maritime element of the new CJEF between the United Kingdom and France. The Junglies from HMS Illustrious took this first encounter with the French carrier to get acquainted with her flight deck and learn valuable lessons for future operations, when the UK’s own Queen Elizabeth class carriers come into service.
Lt Will Orme, a CHF Pilot was the first Junglie to touch down on the French carrier, said “It’s an awesome size ship; it’s like a small airfield at sea. Flying onto her between the waves of fixed wing taking off and landing is pretty tight, an insight for our future Carrier operations”.
Although the main training objective is to prove that the two countries can work side-by-side, it also offers the chance to integrate each others equipment and communications. Working together gives the UK and France the flexibility and capability to conduct military strike and intervention operations, whilst supporting cross-government needs by conducting regional engagement, maritime security and evacuation, delivering humanitarian air or carrying out disaster relief.
“Trooping drills with the French Marines is the same as with our Royal Marines. They have some different ways of operating and everyone is interested in their kit. We’ve flown around the exercise area and they have the same tactics as 3 Commando Brigade”. said Cpl Mark Haffenden, a Commando Aircrewman onboard with the RFTG.