HMS Illustrious Heads To Arctic Circle

Helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious sails from Portsmouth today - Friday 3rd February - for cold weather training north of the Arctic Circle.

The fleet flagship will be away for eight weeks - culminating in the multinational Exercise Cold Response - preparing for her role as the UK's high-readiness helicopter and commando carrier.

On her way north during the build-up to the exercise HMS Illustrious will train with Army Apache helicopters and Royal Navy Sea King Mk 4 helicopters.

Cold Response will demonstrate the ship's ability to operate as part of a multi-national amphibious force and offers arduous training in the depths of the Arctic winter.

The NATO exercise, led by the Norwegian armed forces, is seen as vital in ensuring UK troops retain their ability to deploy worldwide. They will also hone specialist warfare skills while supporting and strengthening the NATO Alliance.  

HMS Illustrious will embark Lynx and Sea King helicopters during the exercise along with a company of Royal Marines from Plymouth-based 42 Commando. She will work alongside the UK's amphibious assault ship HMS Bulwark and warships from other nations including Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The UK's Royal Marines will be joined ashore by landing forces from both the Netherlands and the United States.

Captain Martin Connell, the Commanding Officer of HMS Illustrious, said: "Last year the government reaffirmed the need for the UK's armed forces to be capable of responding to a wide variety of potential crises anywhere in the world. Operating and fighting in extreme weather is just one vital part of a global capability and it is important that we exercise it from time to time. 

"This exercise inside the Arctic Circle will be a stiff test but it marks a significant milestone in preparing to take over as the UK's sole high readiness helicopter carrier later in the year. I very much look forward to supporting our NATO allies and to demonstrating Illustrious' abilities in a challenging multi-national exercise."