Anglo-French naval forces storm Biscay coast
The full panoply of Anglo-French amphibious striking power is being unleashed against France's Atlantic coast as the two nations prepare to form a combined task group.
More than 2,000 military personnel from both sides of the Channel – including destroyer HMS Dragon, amphibious ship RFA Lyme Bay, minehunter HMS Chiddingfold, Royal Marines from 45 Commando, raiding craft from 539 Assault Squadron and RAF Chinooks – are involved in the fortnight-long exercise Catamaran 18.
Played out along a 130-mile stretch of the French coast between Quiberon Bay to La Rochelle and involving 14 warships and support vessels, the exercise is the latest in a series this decade which have tested the combined amphibious forces of Britain and France to work hand-in-hand.
The goal is to create a real-word Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, able to respond to global events - conflict or humanitarian - should Paris and London decide intervention is needed, from 2020 onwards.
As a big stepping stone to that goal, the French-led exercise allows personnel to share ideas, tactics and capabilities, test joint planning and communications, thus ensuring the success of any future Anglo-French amphibious task force and strengthening the strong bonds that already exist between the UK and France.
X Company from Arbroath-based 45 Commando and the Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron from 30 Commando in Plymouth and French Marines from 9 Maritime Infantry Brigade (9 BIMA) are working side-by-side, operating from Lyme Bay and FS Tonnerre (which is a hybrid helicopter/landing craft assault ship).
They are making use of Royal Marines hovercrafts and inflatable raiding craft from Plymouth-based 539 Assault Squadron for small-scale landings and reconnaissance missions, while the Chinooks and French CTM landing craft are being used to move larger numbers of marines and their equipment ashore.