HMS Illustrious is ready to take her place as Britain’s on-call commando carrier for the next two years after completing her second major international exercise in little over a month.
The helicopter assault ship launched Royal Marines of 45 Commando plus Apache gunships as
Exercise Joint Warrior concluded off western Scotland.
Men of 45 Commando muster in Lusty’s hangar ready to join Sea Kings waiting on her flight deck. Pictures: PO(Phot) Ray Jones, HMS Illustrious, and LA(Phot) Martin Carney, HMS Bulwark
WHERE there is discord, may we bring harmony.
Or a load of Royal Marines tooled up to the nines, some wacca-waccas and tank-busting Apache gunships.
For the third time in four months the men and women have restored peace and order to a troubled region – in this instance the troubled shores of the Wallian Archipelago (which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Western Isles of Scotland).
Not actual size… Amphibious experts plan 45 Commando’s final assault in Illustrious’ hangar – with a little help from some ‘interesting’ models…
The biggest military exercise in Europe in 2012 has drawn to a close – and Portsmouth-based carrier HMS Illustrious has once again been at the heart of it.
Having restored political relationships between the countries of Ginger and Brownia (aka North Devon) in December last year and having brought security to the Nerthus region of Borgland and Gardarland (aka Norway) in March, it once again fell to the helicopter assault ship to ensure that stability was brought to the countries of the Wallian Archipelago – protagonists in the latest Joint Warrior exercise.
Some 8,000 personnel from half a dozen nations – including the USA, Germany, Netherlands and Norway – have taken part in the two-week-long war games which are designed to develop the ability of aircraft, warships and submarines to operate as part of a multi-national task group in a complex and demanding operational environment.
A Chinook comes in to land on Illustrious at night
The exercise has certainly been busy for all on board Illustrious. She’s hosted Apache helicopters from 656 Squadron Army Air Corps – which earlier this week conducted the first live Hellfire missile firings in the UK – Merlins from 814 NAS and Sea Kings from the Commando Helicopter Force. Between raids ashore the hangar was also busy with Royal Marines of 45 Commando.
As the name would suggest Exercise Joint Warrior is all about testing the ability of forces on land, in the air and at sea to work together of the three Services, and some of those on board found themselves in a strange environment.
American Seahawk helicopters try out Illustrious’ flight deck for size
“The main difference is that land doesn’t move around when you’re working on the helicopter!” said Army SSgt Jim Docherty, crew chief maintainer for the Apaches, who described the food on Lusty during his three weeks aboard as excellent… and the accommodation as ‘cosy’.
“Working closely with the ship’s crew is essential as the hangar and flight deck of the ship has much less space than an airfield. Really careful planning has to go on to ensure that the right helicopter is in the right place at the right time.”
As things heated up during the final phase of the exercise, Illustrious had the opportunity to test her ability to embark the Joint Task Force Commander and Headquarters Staff.
Get some… A Merlin door gunner lets rip with his M3M machine-gun
This meant that at the height of the exercise, Lusty was home to around 1150 sailors, Royal Marines, soldiers and airmen (her ship’s company is typically around 600-650 strong)
“It’s certainly been a busy and challenging exercise during which HMS Illustrious, her crew and those embarking for the exercise have been tested to their limits,” explained Illustrious’ Commanding Officer Capt Martin Connell.