Royal Navy sharpens claws for Exercise Omani Cougar

The Royal Navy and Royal Marines are putting all their core war fighting skills to the test as they launch into Exercise Omani Cougar. As the fourth major exercise of the ongoing Cougar 13 deployment, personnel are working alongside the Royal Navy of Oman to hold the intense six-day exercise.

Royal Marines from 42 Commando, Juliet Company have been practising their live firing skills and urban combat training in Oman while Royal Navy ships HMS Bulwark and HMS Illustrious are holding maritime warfare serials with Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay and five RNO warships.

The Marines are also putting their core amphibious skills into good use by practising launching themselves from the ships and onto the country’s shoreline.

Daily exchanges of Royal Navy and Royal Navy of Oman personnel will take place such that sailors from both nations can see how each other navies operate.

Each exercise we have undertaken has taught us something new, whether it be the impact of the environment on our people and ships or the challenges we face in sustaining a Task Group thousands of miles from our home waters.

Commodore Paddy McAlpine

The exercise is being led by Captain (Aqeed) Haider bin Ahmed bin Raheem Dad Al Zadgali, Director of Operations Royal Navy of Oman (RNO) from on board HMS Bulwark.

Commodore Paddy McAlpine, Commander of United Kingdom Task Group based on HMS Bulwark, said: “Each exercise we have undertaken has taught us something new, whether it be the impact of the environment on our people and ships or the challenges we face in sustaining a Task Group thousands of miles from our home waters.

“This time we will fully inter-operate with the Royal Navy of Oman, which can only help strengthen future collaborations.

“We are well set for this exercise and after a brief short stop in Muscat it is good to get to sea to start this important work.”

Juliet Company have been battling through daytime temperatures of 30 degrees centigrade in a bespoke training ‘village’ which has been specially constructed to test their full range of urban skills.

It has multi-level compounds they must penetrate and has tunnel systems between buildings which they must discover and use to their advantage.

They have been using their Viking vehicles – an amphibious vehicle that can be used to launch Marines off the back of ships and onto land – as part of the training for a realistic scenario.

“The opportunity to practise live firing whilst integrated with Viking has been fantastic; the austere environment has added to the realism and will prepare us for any likely future taskings as part of the Response Force Task Group,” said Captain Chris Stevens, Second in Command of Juliet Company.

“We simply do not get opportunities to train like this back in the UK – we’re looking forward to working with our Omani colleagues later this week.”

The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, comprising ships, submarines, survey vessels, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, which stands at short notice to act in response to any contingency tasking if required by government.

Each year the RFTG deploys for four months to practise their skills as a group – with the Lead Commando Group Royal Marines embarked for their amphibious warfighting capability. The LCG in this case is 42 Commando.

The Cougar 13 deployment , which left in August, has so far worked in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, the Gulf, and Horn of Africa. It involves exercising with partner nations, and will show the UK Armed Forces’ capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world.

Images by LA(Phot) Jason Ballard and  LA(Phot) Arron Hoare