Navy’s Amphibi­ous Task Group heads to Nor­way

A Train­ing and Adven­ture news arti­cle

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

The sun ris­es on HMS Ocean 50 miles (80km) north west of Ire­land as the task group heads to Nor­we­gian waters for Exer­cise Cold Response
[Pic­ture: LA(Phot) Bernie Henesy, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

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.

HMS Ocean takes time out at anchor on her way to Nor­way for Exer­cise Cold Response
[Pic­ture: LA(Phot) Bernie Henesy, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

“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.

HMS Ocean opens up with one of her weapons as part of Exer­cise Cold Response
[Pic­ture: LA(Phot) Bernie Henesy, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

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.

The anchor of HMS Ocean thun­ders off the cap­stan dur­ing Exer­cise Cold Response
[Pic­ture: LA(Phot) Bernie Henesy, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

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.

Min­istry of Defence, UK