Commandos take on boarding operations training in Algeria as Med mission continues

Topic: Operational activityInternational partnership Storyline: Casualty Ship (RFA Argus)

Royal Navy helicopters and Royal Marines pounced on their own vessel during pulsating boarding operations training alongside Algerian counterparts.

RFA Argus has been on a Mediterranean mission as part of an amphibious task force – known as Littoral Response Group North – spearheaded by HMS Albion.

The aviation support/casualty ship – with its spacious flight deck for the task group’s air group of Merlin and Wildcat helicopters – has been at the heart of the action as it worked closely with NATO allies and partners across the region. 

The ship sailed into the historic port of Algiers, where dignitaries from NATO nations and distinguished guest were hosted, before helicopters and Royal Marines sprang into action alongside the Algerian Armed Forces.

Argus became a ‘vessel of interest’ for the maritime interdiction exercises –military speak for complicated boarding operations of various types which involves teams from 42 Commando taking control of a ship.

A Wildcat maritime patrol helicopter from 847 Naval Air Squadron was first to enter the fray, sweeping the ocean with her radar to local the target vessel and assess the conditions, laying the foundations of the boarding operation. 

Another Wildcat swooped in with a sniper team from 42 Commando embarked. They provide ‘top cover’ for commandos below, keeping a sharp eye on the battlefield for anything which may threaten their comrades. The snipers are also able to shoot out the engines of drugs-running ‘go-fast’ speed boats.

Once the vessel was identified as ‘unfriendly’ the Wildcat crew instructed small boats from 47 Commando, carrying teams from 42 Commando and Algerian counterparts to begin their approach and start boarding.

With the flight deck quickly secured, an Algerian Super Lynx and a Wildcat moved in, allowing marines to fast rope onto the deck and overwhelm their ‘enemy’.

"This kind of joint training – with different nations throughout the Mediterranean including North Africa – has been a huge part of the response group’s role over the past three months," said Lieutenant Commander Mathew Askham, Tailored Air Group Commanding Officer.  

"These interactions are crucial to developing relationships with our military counterparts and allows us to learn from each other for future joint operations."

Argus is now in Vigo in Spain for her final port visit before heading home for Christmas.

The ship is affiliated to Vigo after she rescued twelve Spanish sailors from the Delfin Del Mediterraneo, which sank 248 miles south west of Cape St Vincent in 1998.

Argus raced to the scene and launched her helicopter and, despite waves of up to 40ft, was able to rescue the sailors.

The ship received the Silver Medal of Galicia for her crew’s actions.

While in Vigo, Argus will host dignitaries and sailors will visit the Villagarcia Cemetery, the British Naval Cemetery.