Royal Marines have been testing how they will operate in the future with a rare foray into the Australian outback.
Before heading on large-scale Australian and United States-led exercises, Command Company of Taunton-based 40 Commando are conducting experimental training sorties, nearly 10,000 miles away from their Somerset home.
On the sun-scorched terrain and on idyllic beaches near Queensland northeastern Australia, the commandos are spending part of the Aussie winter, in which temperatures can still reach 27°c, working in new commando teams.
“It embraces a ‘commando first’ initiative where everyone is foremost a commando, and then handpicked for the various skillset required for the task, including snipers, signallers, recce and medics,” said Lieutenant Simon Williams of 40 Commando.
This is all part of work on the Future Commando Force concept, which will see Royal Marines embrace new technology and develop new ways of working.
“The commandos have grasped new command structures, breaking the typical specialisation-exclusive troops into bespoke mixed-teams,” added Lt Williams.
This is the first phase of the deployment Down Under for Command Company, during which they have also worked with reconnaissance specialists of the Australian Defence Force (2nd Royal Australian Regiment).
Soon they will embark together on HMAS Canberra – a Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock – to work on Exercise Talisman Sabre, which involves forces from Australia, the US, New Zealand and Japan.
During the exercise, 40 Commando will fulfil a pre-landing force role for the taskforce, entering the fray before the main chunk of forces crash ashore on amphibious assaults.
In a test for the new multi-role teams, marines will take out forward 'enemy' positions and infrastructure, enabling the larger amphibious forces to assault the coastlines.
“Even though it’s winter, the conditions have been tough – hot and dry with loose rocky ground – making the insertion yomp exhausting,” said Lt Williams, about the company level training which preludes Talisman Sabre.
“This deployment demonstrates the Royal Marines’ ability to rapidly integrate and operate in support of a variety of global partners.”
The commandos also spent a week observing enemy positions and calling in fires, before a final assault to eliminate a missile system.
This year has seen 40 Commando working across the globe, with deployments to the Arctic, Belize jungle and the deserts of Nevada.
Talisman Sabre takes place every two years and is led by the Australians and US. The main exercise activities will take place in the Australian Defence Force's Shoalwater Bay Training Area and surrounding State Forests, near Rockhampton in central Queensland.