UKHMS Illustrious trains in tough Arctic conditions

Roy­al Navy heli­copter car­ri­er HMS Illus­tri­ous is in the midst of Exer­cise Cold Response, based in the Arc­tic.

Crew mem­bers secure a Sea King heli­copter dur­ing a white­out on board HMS Illus­tri­ous [Pic­ture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Dur­ing the NATO exer­cise Illus­tri­ous is the com­mand ship for Major Gen­er­al Ed Davis, Com­man­dant Gen­er­al Roy­al Marines, who, with his Com­man­der Amphibi­ous Forces staff, is direct­ing the move­ments of allied warships. 

In all, about 16,000 sailors, sol­diers and air­men from 15 nations, host­ed by Nor­way, are tak­ing part in Cold Response which tests the abil­i­ty of NATO’s forces to fight in the harsh­est envi­ron­ment imaginable. 

The ten-day war game has gath­ered an inter­na­tion­al task force in the waters of the Arctic. 

The sit­u­a­tion in the fic­tion­al ‘Nerthus’ region (actu­al­ly north­ern Nor­way) is dete­ri­o­rat­ing, with ‘Gar­dar­land’ refus­ing to with­draw its troops from neigh­bour­ing ‘Bor­g­land’, and the multi­na­tion­al naval force on high alert, ready to inter­vene if needed. 

Dur­ing Cold Response HMS Illus­tri­ous is home to eight heli­copters — four Sea Kings and four Lynx, all from Roy­al Naval Air Sta­tion Yeovilton. 

The 900-plus crew of HMS Illus­tri­ous, includ­ing Roy­al Marines and per­son­nel from the Com­man­do Heli­copter Force, are work­ing around the clock. 

Staff work­ing on the flight deck, day and night, are fac­ing bliz­zards and strong winds that can drop the tem­per­a­ture to minus 40 degrees Cel­sius as they mar­shal and refu­el the essen­tial helicopters. 

At one point a bliz­zard brought fly­ing oper­a­tions to a standstill. 

Roy­al Marines of Kilo Com­pa­ny, 42 Com­man­do, had been ready to board Com­man­do Heli­copter Force Lynx and Sea Kings when the oper­a­tion was called off. 

Deck crews and air­craft main­tain­ers coped with high winds and bliz­zard con­di­tions to secure the air­craft to the deck or move them inside to a hangar. 

Cap­tain Mar­tin Con­nell, the ship’s Com­mand­ing Offi­cer, said: 

HMS Illus­tri­ous and her embarked heli­copter squadrons are cer­tain­ly fac­ing some tough arc­tic conditions. 

“But we have pre­pared for this, both in terms of train­ing and with all our equip­ment, and I am very pleased with the way the crew have approached the exer­cise through­out the ship.” 

He added: 

“In par­tic­u­lar the pos­i­tive atti­tude and cheery enthu­si­asm of those oper­at­ing on the flight deck have been vital and have allowed Illus­tri­ous to con­duct heli­copter oper­a­tions round the clock in sup­port of the multi­na­tion­al task force.” 

A few miles away, the Navy’s flag­ship HMS Bul­wark has been car­ry­ing out amphibi­ous exer­cis­es with her land­ing craft. 

The assault ship has been train­ing at Red Beach near Harstad with the Korps Mariniers — the Dutch coun­ter­parts of the Roy­al Marines and long-stand­ing part­ners of the Green Berets. 

Com­modore Pad­dy McAlpine, Com­man­der UK Task Group, and his staff are direct­ing amphibi­ous oper­a­tions involv­ing Bul­wark and her sub­or­di­nate ships and units. 

Land­ing craft from Bulwark’s per­ma­nent Roy­al Marines unit, 4 Assault Group, trained with Netherland’s assault ship HNLMS Rot­ter­dam, which is a cross between Bul­wark and the Roy­al Fleet Auxiliary’s Bay Class land­ing sup­port ships. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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