HMS Ark Royal and her Task Group, which consists of HMS Liverpool, HMS Sutherland, USS Barry and RFA Fort George, have been joined by units from the Amphibious Task Group - HMS Ocean, HMS Albion with 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines embarked, and RFA Largs Bay - to take part in USS Kearsarge’s Composite Training Unit Exercise (C2X) with 1 (Fighter) Squadron of Joint Force Harrier.
The coming together of three of the Royal Navy’s five capital ships is strategically important as it enables the Service to maximise its training in order to succeed in small scale focused interventions such as bombing raids and anti-submarine warfare operations which, in turn, enable the final objective of inserting troops on the ground in the form of Royal Marines from 3 Commando Brigade, all the while protecting itself from air attack by utilising HMS Liverpool’s superb air defence capabilities.
The Royal Navy’s fleet flagship HMS Ark Royal continues as the Task Group command and control carrier strike platform for the UK-led multinational Auriga deployment, commanded by Commodore Simon Ancona.
Commander Simon Ward, Chief of Staff for the Carrier Strike Group, said:
…this is a fantastic opportunity to develop and hone relevant, available maritime skills and capabilities that encapsulates air, sea and land operations.
The exercise has been developed for the multinational task groups by the United States Navy’s Carrier Strike Force Training (Atlantic) and has taken a year of joint planning with the UK’s Carrier Strike Group.
Although this is the first exercise of this type and size for many years, Ark Royal has benefited greatly from using the United States Navy’s fixed wing bombing ranges, and as such this area of the Carolinas is know as the ‘Carrier Strike gymnasium’.
The scenario area has been named the ‘Treasure Coast’ as the names of the six mythical sovereign states are named after precious or semi-precious gems.
However, most importantly this is a rare opportunity to conduct strike, expeditionary and naval warfare missions within a joint and coalition environment.
Commodore Simon Ancona, Commander of the Carrier Strike Group, said:
This is the Royal Navy coming together to train to deliver at a small scale, with very many moving parts, and it has been a while since we have executed anything like this.
However, we have the assets and we are in ideal exercise areas to be able to regenerate the know-how of how to conduct operations like these.
It will certainly be a busy few weeks for both the Carrier Strike Group and the Amphibious Task Group as they exercise against symmetrical and asymmetrical threats as well as continuing to conduct fixed wing Harrier flying operations whilst inserting the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade ashore.
Since departing Portsmouth in April, HMS Ark Royal has conducted a number of high profile exercises as the nation’s strike carrier, including Joint Warrior with 800 Squadron, Naval Strike Wing; Capella Strike with the United States Marine Corps’ Harrier AV8Bs; anti-submarine warfare exercises utilising HMS Sutherland’s 2087 sonar and Merlin helicopter; and Exercise Halcyon Rendezvous with the Royal Canadian Navy.
And, after these exercises, she went on to participate in the Canadian Navy’s Centenary International Fleet Review held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and overseen by Her Majesty The Queen.