The largest Royal Navy task group in the Middle East in 15 years has mustered off Oman for the region’s biggest war game of 2018.
Destroyer HMS Dragon became the final vessel to join the seven-ship forces poised to lead the naval element of Exercise Saif Sareea 3.
More than 5,500 UK personnel, including more than 1,000 sailors and Royal Marines, are taking part in the exercise – Arabic for Swift Sword – which reaches its climax next week.
Dragon left her homeport of Portsmouth last month and has now arrived in the Gulf to throw her considerable weight behind one of the Middle East’s biggest joint military exercises.
The potent Royal Navy force has gathered at Duqm port and, supported by Wildcat and Chinook helicopters, is designed to fight its way through into combat and make its presence felt on land.
At the vanguard of this flotilla is Britain’s flagship HMS Albion, an amphibious assault ship designed to bring the clout of the Royal Marines to the frontlines.
Alongside Albion, Dragon will use her world-class air defence capabilities to protect this fleet from multiple threats over a vast area and impose herself on the enemy.
Minehunters HMS Ledbury and HMS Shoreham have also linked up with the group, fresh from operations in the Gulf; their actions are choreographed by ‘mother ship’ RFA Cardigan Bay, which also carries supplies and fuel to sustain the small vessels for longer periods.
Cardigan Bay’s sister RFA Lyme Bay is weighing in in her more traditional role as an amphibious support ship, carrying troops, raiding craft, kit, and a Wildcat helicopter to where they’re needed most during 28 days of war games.
Once the commandos are ashore, Lyme Bay is able to sustain the commandos’ thrust into the Omani desert with deliveries of equipment and ammunition.
That drive into the sands by the green berets of 40 Commando – normally based at Norton Manor just outside Taunton – will be aided by the Royal Marines’ Viking armoured vehicles, plus artillery pieces and engineering equipment to aid attacks on targets on shore.
Gathering such a potent group of warships demonstrated the UK’s war-fighting capability said task force commander Commodore James Parkin, in charge of the naval force from HMS Albion.
“Fielding a force of this size thousands of miles from home demonstrates the global reach of the Royal Navy and demonstrates the UK’s commitment to Gulf security,” the Commander of the Amphibious Task Group added.
“The Amphibious Task Group brings a wide range of capabilities and it has been great to see the force form and take shape over the past few weeks.
“We are delighted to once again be working with our Omani partners and look forward to the test that Saif Sareea will bring.”
The last piece of the naval jigsaw is military ferry MV Anvil Point which has delivered the heavy supplies to Oman, ensuring the task group can sustain itself during nearly a month of operations.
Saif Sareea is the UK’s largest joint exercise since 2002 and involves personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army and Royal Air Force working alongside their partners and counterparts from the Omani Royal Armed Forces.
The exercise is designed to reinforce the long-standing relationship between the UK and Oman by enhancing mutual security and prosperity in a vital area of the world.