Ex Cougar 12, The Junglies Head Back to Sea
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.
Junglie Sea Kings from CHF working alongside Fleet Air Arm Merlin and Airborne Surveillance and Control (AsaC) Sea King helicopters participated in the first phase of the Cougar 12 deployment.
Leaving behind the coast of Cornwall, the RFTG sailed south toward Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. CHF Sea Kings from 845 and 846 NASs were providing vital troop lift for the deployed Royal Marines in addition to an under-slung load capability throughout the deployment.
A Tailored Air Group (TAG) comprising the aforementioned Apache Attack helicopters, Naval Merlins from 814 NAS, ASaC Sea Kings from 854 NAS and the CHF Sea Kings, were embarked on the Helicopter and Commando Carrier HMS Illustrious. Chinooks from RAF Odiham will also rejoined the force at a later stage of the deployment.
CHF are also provided the JHF(C), which was stood up to provide a unique capability for controlling JHC battlefield helicopter assets at high readiness and earmarked for contingency as part of the RFTG. This forward deployable force headquarters element worked closely with 3 Cdo Bde HQ and the Lead Cdo group, 45 Cdo RM. “The JHF(C) is ideally suited to this environment” said Maj Jon Parry RM; JHF(C) OpsO. “We’ve deployed this HQ for Ex Cold Response in Norway and Ex Joint Warrior earlier this year and the results have proved that CHF are able to provide the right expertise and aviation support to both 3 Cdo Bde RM, and 16 Air Assault Bde across the globe.”
The Junglies relished the opportunity to get back to their primary role supporting Amphibious based Commando Carrier deployments after consecutive Ops in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.
Lt Col Del Stafford RM, the CO of the JHF(C), was pleased with the way both CHF and other JHC elements started the deployment. “We were able to get all the CHF aircrew through a deck landing training package prior to leaving UK waters and now we are busy planning for the next Phase of the deployment in the Mediterranean. The RFTG is a great vehicle through which to demonstrate the versatility, mobility and interoperability of the RN, and gives us exactly the right environment to refresh our amphibious skills, both onboard shipping, and during the land phases with the French and Albanians.”