Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Navy's Amphibious Task Group heads to Norway

Navy's Amphibious Task Group heads to Norway
February 17, 2010

The UK Amphibious Task Group sailed for the Arctic Circle this week to take part in Exercise Cold Response in Norway.

Cold Response is a multi-national NATO exercise led by the Norwegian Armed Forces and directed by the Norwegian National Joint Headquarters, designed to offer challenging training in the middle of an Arctic winter.

The exercise is vital in ensuring that the Royal Navy maintains its traditional sea-fighting capability whilst undertaking amphibious warfare in a cold weather environment.

The task group of ships includes HMS Ocean, Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Mounts Bay and the Dutch Landing Platform Dock HNLMS Johan de Witt.

The flotilla is led by HMS Albion, the fleet high-readiness amphibious flagship, carrying staff from Commander Amphibious Task Group and 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines.

HMS Albion's spokesman, Commander Geoff Wintle, said:

"The conditions in Norway, extreme cold weather, heavy snow and uncompromising terrain, provide a very challenging natural backdrop.

"Flying aircraft, driving vehicles and just surviving in the open become far more difficult, requiring skills that are difficult to practise in the UK's training areas.

"The maritime task group will also operate in temperatures below minus 20 degrees Celsius.

"At those sorts of temperatures, bare hands can stick to metal guardrails and exposed skin can get nipped by frost. Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines will be operating a range of landing craft and fast boats, while some of the Royal Navy's largest and most valuable warships will be manoeuvring in the Norwegian fjords in order to deliver and then support the landing force ashore.

"Our people and equipment will be worked hard in really testing conditions and the weather will become a key factor in our planning, just as it would in a real operation."

For the next few weeks the task group will work with 45 Commando Royal Marines who are already training in Norway.

The Royal Marines, Army Gunners from Plymouth-based 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, and sailors from the ships will work together, preparing for worldwide operations. In addition, two Sea King helicopters and four Lynx helicopters from Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton will operate from HMS Ocean for the duration of the exercise.

Also on board HMS Ocean is a group of 67 officer cadets who joined the Royal Navy in September and have so far undergone 18 weeks of basic military and seamanship training at Dartmouth.

They are now taking part in their initial fleet training and over the coming weeks will live and work among junior sailors on board to prepare them for their future roles as officers and leaders.

Regardless of their future specialisation, the cadets will also experience each of the ship's departments to understand how the various elements work together to keep the ship functioning, from storing ship to bridge watchkeeping.

Officer Cadet 'Spud' Whittaker, a future marine engineering officer who has been promoted from the Royal Navy's ranks, said:

"I am keen to broaden my horizons and gain experience working in the other departments, which is something I've not really had the chance to do in the past."

The group also includes a number of international students from foreign navies who regularly take the opportunity to experience the world class training provided by the Royal Navy.

Officer Cadet Aw from Singapore, who is more used to working in warmer climates, said:

"I'm really looking forward to seeing what it's like to live and work onboard a British warship, especially operating in the environment that HMS Ocean is going to."

HMS Ocean is the Royal Navy's largest warship, with a displacement of 22,500 tonnes. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1998 as an amphibious assault helicopter carrier and is capable of rapid deployment worldwide.

Whilst operating within the Arctic Circle, Ocean's crew will be exposed to maximum temperatures of minus five degrees Celsius during the five hours of daylight, dropping down to -30 degrees Celsius during the night.

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