Thursday, June 23, 2011

Red hot Cougar task group sharpens its teeth in Saudi Arabia

THINGS are really hotting up for the Royal Navy's key deployment of 2011 with a demanding eight-day exercise around the Arabian Peninsula in fearsome temperatures.
Fresh from passage through the Suez Canal, the Cougar 11 task group – the Navy's flagship HMS Albion, her escorting frigate Sutherland, amphibious support ship RFA Cardigan Bay and tanker RFA Wave Knight – is now involved in major exercises with the Saudi armed forces.
Red Alligator is a real workout for the task force featuring everything which it is expected to deal with – from maritime security/counter-piracy operations, to a full-scale amphibious assault – hand-in-hand with Saudis.

The amphibious assault element of the exercise comes courtesy of the green berets of 40 Commando, embarked on Albion and Cardigan Bay, plus Albion's inherent Royal Marines landing craft of 6 Assault Squadron, and the specialists of 539 Assault Squadron RM with their assortment of landing craft and hovercraft, and the Vikings vehicles of the commandos' Armoured Support Group.
Red Alligator kicked off with two days of exercising in the Red Sea during which warships from Britain and Saudi Arabia trained for coalition missions such as maritime security, counter-piracy and counter-terrorism.
Red Alligator is very Red right now. Red Sea. Red hot. 37°C. As for the alligator, well normally they're only found in the USA and China – but they are amphibians with bite… just like the Cougar task group.
And the focus has now shifted to amphibious operations with the 40 Commando men working with their Saudi Marine counterparts in a series of exercises including beach reconnaissance, landing craft training and live firings. The eight-day exercise reaches a climax with a simulated joint assault against an objective on land.
“Defence cooperation is the cornerstone of the strong relationship between the UK and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Exercises such as this ensure that both countries are able to make an important contribution to regional stability and counter-terrorism," explained Capt James Morley Royal Navy, Commanding Officer of HMS Albion, and Commander of the Amphibious Task Force.
Lt Col Matt Jackson, 40 Cdo's Commanding Officer, added: “Exercise Red Alligator enables the Royal Marines and our Saudi counterparts to share expertise, demonstrate equipment and develop our skills together. It's a valuable training opportunity for both nations."


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