News story

HMS Bulwark arrives home after major Mediterranean exercise

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

HMS Bulwark returned to Plymouth last week after two months in the Mediterranean with the largest Royal Naval deployment of the year.

HMS Bulwark and a tug
Royal Navy warship HMS Bulwark is guided into Plymouth Sound by a tug

The command and control ship led the UK’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) on Exercise Cougar 12, consisting of the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, Plymouth-based HMS Montrose and HMS Northumberland, Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Mounts Bay and the heavy-lift ferry Hartland Point.

The Commanding Officer of HMS Bulwark, Captain Andrew Burns, said:

It has been an immensely successful deployment. We have proved we have the professionalism and the tools to do the job that we are here to do. We have come a long way in the two months since we sailed from Devonport, and we have honed the skills that make HMS Bulwark a capable and formidable amphibious platform and fleet flagship.

We now look forward to 2013 and the opportunities that we are presented with to develop and build upon our capabilities even further.

People wave from the shore
Families and friends wave to loved ones returning aboard HMS Bulwark from the shore [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Martin Carney, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

Sailing fully loaded with 550 sailors, Royal Marines and Commander United Kingdom Task Group staff officers, 62 Land Rovers and armoured vehicles and eight amphibious landing craft, HMS Bulwark departed as a fully loaded amphibious assault platform ready to grasp every opportunity available on the exercise to train and prove her capabilities.

Having trained off the south west coast of England, where the task group took the opportunity to exercise the key elements of amphibious operations, the RFTG sailed for the Mediterranean, taking the opportunity to train with the Danish, French and Spanish navies along the way.

The culmination of all the rehearsing took place in Corsica, testing the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force concept developed under the UK and France Defence Cooperation Treaty.

Sea King helicopter flies over HMS Bulwark
HMS Bulwark passes Plymouth Hoe as a Sea King helicopter passes above to salute her return [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Martin Carney, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

The British and French navies were successfully able to examine and test the maritime element by demonstrating the task group’s ability to project air power from the sea using the French Carrier Strike Group and the British Amphibious Task Group, with HMS Bulwark at the centre of amphibious operations.

The 13-day exercise in Albania involved Royal Marines from 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group and 45 Commando, a full land and air assault on the Vlore Peninsula, and simulated small boat attacks against the ships in the task group by the Albanian Navy, playing the role of smugglers and insurgents.

Exercise Albanian Lion allowed HMS Bulwark to demonstrate her prowess in amphibious operations, command and control, and surface defence against maritime attack.

The crew of HMS Bulwark also enjoyed port visits to Gibraltar, Toulon, Corfu and Malta for diplomacy duties, memorial services and sporting events. The crew are now taking some well-earned leave.

Published 3 December 2012