Land, sea and air forces from ten nations are currently taking part in the two-week Joint Warrior exercise in Scotland, the largest such exercise staged in the UK.
HMS Bulwark - due to assume the role of the nation’s flagship imminently - is leading the Royal Navy’s participation in the exercise which is now reaching the halfway point and preparing to move into the ‘business’ stage.
The exercise - taking place in locations ranging from Faslane to the north west tip of Scotland at Cape Wrath - is intended to test NATO forces across the full spectrum of 21st century conflict, from fending off air attacks and hunting mines and submarines to putting - and, crucially, supporting - troops ashore.
Assault ship HMS Bulwark is the largest Royal Navy participant in the exercise, but the elite infantry punch, unusually, is provided by French rather than Royal Marines.
From the Solent, Bulwark sailed to Brest in France to pick up 130 men from the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment - under the latest link-up between the respective Corps since British and French Marines were ‘twinned’ back in 1995.
As well as personnel, Bulwark embarked the French troops’ vehicles and kit in Brittany, then sailed north, making use of the passage to Faslane to allow the ship’s company and visitors to train together:
The opportunity to host French Marines is fantastic,” said Captain Alex Burton, Bulwark’s Commanding Officer. “With the current emphasis on combined operations, it’s vital we gain as much experience as possible working with other nations in a joint environment.
Joint Warrior is run twice a year; the latest two-week war game sees forces from the USA, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Turkey and Poland lined up alongside UK air, sea and land units.
The exercise grew out of the Joint Maritime Course and its name has changed down the years to reflect that it’s not just a ‘dark blue’ affair, but embraces all three Services.