Commandos ready to up the ante in 2021

Topic: Fighting armsRoyal Marines

Royal Marines will surge ahead with their bold modernisation in 2021 after a year of experiments, trials and their customary front-line successes around the world in the past 12 months.

The commandos continued to deliver on global operations, from the heat of the Gulf to the sub-zero Arctic and tropical Caribbean and Mediterranean, on Royal Navy ships and stationed on land as part of a high-readiness force, ready to deploy wherever most needed.

While continuing the more traditional commitments of the Corps – as experts in combat in extreme climes, as guardians of the UK’s nuclear deterrent and as maritime operations specialists – there has also been a significant ramping up of Future Commando Force work – an audacious restructuring and modernisation of the commando force for the next era of warfare. 

The comprehensive transformation will take years to complete but there has been early progress – progress now being felt by commandos on the front line, as new kit and tactics are trialled and developed on exercises.

A new uniform which is lighter, less likely to tear, is faster-drying and is more breathable than typical 50/50 cotton/nylon kit is now being worn, along with the new blue and red commando insignia and a White Ensign signifying the commandos’ integration with the Royal Navy.

That has been coupled with experiments with new kit and tactics, notably in the Arctic and Mediterranean on the Winter Deployment 20 and the autumn’s Littoral Response Group (Experimentation) mission to the Mediterranean.   

This saw drones, vehicles and ‘throwbots’ – lobbed over walls, through windows and open doors to give marines an idea of what’s inside – and more tested in a range of battlefield scenarios to scrutinise their usefulness to commandos on the ground when it matters most.

This crucial Future Commando Force work came alongside notable operational successes in the Gulf and in the Caribbean. 

Marines of 47 and 42 Commando, plus their Army comrades of 24 Commando, played a key role in Caribbean drugs busts while on deployment with RFA Argus.

In total, £400m of illegal narcotics were seized by the Royal Navy task group in the region, with 47 Commando working closely with the US Coast Guard to board and search suspect vessels, while a maritime sniper from 42 Commando kept close watch from a Wildcat helicopter of 815 Naval Air Squadron. 

45 Commando were also in the Caribbean, acting as a security presence around the Turks and Caicos Islands to deter illicit activity on the back of three months in the Arctic as part of the largest deployment to the high north in nearly a decade. 

Meanwhile, in the Gulf, boarding teams from 42 Commando completed drugs busts of their own, most notably a double header worth more than £13m while deployed on destroyer HMS Defender.

Teams have also been permanently stationed on HMS Montrose, as the Type 23 frigate patrols the powder keg shipping lanes of the Gulf, ready to react to emerging situations. 

At home, 43 Commando have been on duty round the clock – every single day of the year – protecting the UK’s ultimate weapon at Clyde Naval Base in Scotland.

The Fleet Protection Group’s R and P Squadrons headed on intensive exercises to keep them razor sharp for these missions, pushing themselves in a range of skills on training in the UK and in Gibraltar. 

In the wake of the explosion in Beirut, a force protection team of Royal Marines from 42 Commando deployed with HMS Enterprise to support the UK’s efforts following the explosion which devastated Lebanon’s capital city.

In 2021, the evolution of the Royal Marines into the Future Commando Force, returning to the original concept of commandos as elite raiders from the sea – but with 21st Century communications, technology, weaponry and tactics – will continue apace.

During their traditional winter deployment to Norway, marines will work on new tactics for operating in the Arctic. 

And the experimental Vanguard Strike Company – formed especially to test new equipment and tactics, adapting and adopting them for front-line operations – will deploy for first time.