The exercise involves 20 landing craft and around 100 Marines operating from both ship and shore, off-loading vehicles, carrying out patrols and beach reconnaissance, and undergoing amphibious troop training, all the while being targeted by an ‘enemy force’.
The ongoing exercise is the largest the unit has organised and is training Royal Marines from 10 Landing Craft Training Squadron and HMS Bulwark. It involves operating landing craft from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Largs Bay in Plymouth Sound and on the River Tamar.
The event is part of Exercise Broad Horizon which is held three times a year as the final assessment for students who have opted to join the Royal Marines landing craft specialisation and have undergone training for the previous 14 weeks. On this occasion the exercise also included 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines, who are based on HMS Bulwark, as they prepare for operational sea training.
The river and shore at Devonport are an ideal training area in which the students can operate various landing craft, ranging from the largest, capable of transporting main battle tanks, to smaller, more agile craft that can achieve speeds in excess of 35 knots (65km/h).
The exercise tests Class 3 and Class 2 landing craftsmen and, with the support of HMS Bulwark’s Royal Marines assault squadron, RFA Largs Bay is providing an amphibious command-and-control centre and acting as a ‘mother ship’ for landing craft to move vehicles between Plymouth and various beaches in Cornwall.
Exercise Director, Major Jim Fuller, Office Commanding 10 Landing Craft Training Squadron, said:
The Royal Marines are the UK’s amphibious experts and whilst we are committed to current operations in Afghanistan, it is also essential that we maintain our skills and knowledge of how to live, work and fight from landing craft. This is what Exercise Broad Horizon is designed to do.
The exercise is the essential assessment phase of the Royal Marines landing craft specialist training. For eight days the men being assessed will be expected to coxswain their craft by day and night, with minimal rest, and always under the threat of possible enemy attack. This will ensure they have the skills to graduate as Royal Marine landing craft coxswains.
Upon successful completion of the full exercise students will then be trained to take an appointment with a front line squadron and be ready to deploy anywhere in the world as a landing craft operator.
This exercise is important for HMS Bulwark as it is part of its operational sea training so the ship can assume duty as the fleet amphibious flagship in the summer after her operational sea training next year.
The training includes working day and night at sea and on Pentewan and Tregantle beaches as well as on rivers in Devon and Cornwall. The amphibious training also includes Royal Marines from the Commando Training Centre at Lympstone in Devon.