British Forces Team Up For Massive Exercise

More than 3-thousand British sailors, commandos and airmen start a 3-month training exercise today (1st October)- which also involves the Portsmouth warship HMS Illustrious.

Royal Marines will 'invade' a British beach as they practise attacking coastlines. Commandos will launch a dramatic assault on a strip of sand in the south west at the start of Cougar 12, a mission which will see them sent to the Mediterranean and Adriatic. 

The attack on the unnamed beach is due to take place between October 1 and 9. 

More than 3,000 sailors, commandos and airmen will eventually join French and Albanian troops in exercises designed to prepare them for working together on combat operations. 

The naval exercise comes after a decade of land-based fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan which has focused on the Army. 

The commander of the UK Task Group, Commodore Paddy McAlpine, said: 

"Cougar 12 provides us with a superb opportunity to rekindle our amphibious capability after a prolonged period when our focus has been on operations elsewhere."

The Royal Navy's flagship HMS Bulwark and the helicopter carrier, Portsmouth's HMS Illustrious will take part in exercises, as well as the Type 23 frigates Northumberland and Montrose Bay. But the vessels will be dwarfed by the French flagship, the 37,000-tonne aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which provides a launchpad for Rafale and Super Etendard jets and will be the envy of British airmen on the deployment. 

British aircraft involved in the exercises include Lynx, Merlin and Sea King helicopters, and fearsome Apache gunships - currently being flown by Prince Harry in Afghanistan. The multinational forces will train as part of the Response Force Task Group, which was set up following the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review two years ago. Ministers and defence chiefs created the crack squad as a rapid reaction force to deal with unexpected world events needing military might.