The striking imagery is from training in preparation for the next, ‘Theatre Entry’ phase of the exercise, as the warships form up to fight their way through a ‘choke point’ in order to bring decisive force to bear on their fictional opponents. The 18 warships pictured are just one third of the fleet NATO is operating in the Mediterranean on Exercise Trident Juncture.

More than 70 ships and submarines, maritime patrol aircraft and 3,000 marines are taking part in the maritime portion of the exercise taking place off the coast of Portugal, Spain and Italy and at NATO’s Maritime Command in Northwood, Middlesex.

Representing the UK are the vessels HMS Ocean and HMS Bulwark with embarked Royal Marines and members of the US Marine Corps. Also onboard are Wildcat helicopters from 847 Naval Air Squadron, Merlin Mk2 from 814 Naval Air Squadron and Chinooks from 27 Squadron RAF.

The maritime part of Trident Juncture tests amphibious landings in four locations, special operations forces activities, maritime patrol aircraft sorties, submarine warfare and coastal training events.

The exercise, involving 36,000 troops from more than 30 nations, is also the final ‘tick’ that clears the Royal Navy’s Maritime Battle Staff to command the Naval element on the NATO Response Force in 2016.

The exercise started at the beginning of October with virtual, ‘table top’ scenario designed to test the planning processes and command relationships of NATO’s Joint Force Command Brunsumm with headquarters in Italy, Spain and afloat in the Royal Navy’s Flagship, HMS Ocean. This was followed by ‘Livex’, where the scenario was transferred from theoretical discussion to the real world. For the 60 NATO’s warships, this has meant a series of amphibious raids, anti-submarine drills and air defence exercises against Typhoons.

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