We make use of supply ships like RFA Fort Austin by positioning them at strategic locations enroute and they then act as a warehouse meaning we can stay at sea indefinitely.

Commander Phil Hally.

He continued: "Both ships are taking part in Cougar 13, a long planned Royal Navy exercise that sees the UK’s Response Force Task Group – formed under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review – honing its maritime skills thousands of miles from home through exercises with key allies.

The first exercise in the series is Albanian Lion where Royal Marines of the Lead Commando Group will land and move inland through a fictional hostile state.

After Albanian Lion the Task Group will move East of Suez and continue exercises with partners in the Gulf.

Cdr Hally added:“Normally Illustrious will have a company of roughly 850 but during Cougar, with the additional Royal Marines and aircraft onboard, this figure can swell up to 1,200.

"We make use of supply ships like RFA Fort Austin by positioning them at strategic locations enroute and they then act as a warehouse meaning we can stay at sea indefinitely.

"The supplies that we have taken onboard will not only cover Illustrious but other ships in the Task Force as we will distribute them at a later stage in the exercise.”

Four Royal Navy ships and five Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels are taking part along with Royal Marines embarked in HMS Bulwark, RFA Mounts Bay and RFA Lyme Bay as well as a number of Army Commandos.

Image by PO(Phot) Ray Jones