Six days after leaving home waters, assault ship HMS Albion, destroyer HMS Dragon and landing ship RFA Lyme Bay have arrived in Gibraltar.

HMS Albion is leading the Littoral Response Group (Experimentation) (LRG(X)) which is using the three-month deployment to “develop new tactics and try out new technology to help forge the commandos of tomorrow”, as well as conducting more traditional exercises and operations.

Speaking about this part of the deployment, named Exercise Gibraltar Strike, the Royal Navy say in a news release:

“Covid restrictions are limiting many of the staple fixtures of a visit to the Rock largely to a re-fuel/re-supply stop. But there will be the opportunity for the Royal Marines to stretch their legs for the first time on this deployment.

Gibraltar Strike includes abseiling from helicopters and urban combat training making use of the facilities/ranges on the Rock as the Royal Marines continue their transition to the Future Commando Force.”

Commodore Rob Pedre, Commander of the UK’s Littoral Strike Group, was quoted as saying:

“Sailing into Gibraltar is a real highlight at the start of our deployment. We greatly value the support and welcome that Gibraltar provides, especially as we prepare for wide-ranging operations in the Mediterranean Sea.”

Upon leaving Gibraltar the group will help NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian, which includes Maritime Security activity within the Mediterranean Sea, and training alongside the UK’s regional partners.

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HF

Long may we retain this capability

Daniele Mandelli

Seconded.

No one ever explains how the future commando force is meant to strike at anything without helicopters to move it, landing craft to take it ashore, and a host vessel to hold these assets.

Bays carry 1 LCVP or LCU. Albion’s have 4 of each, plus comprehensive c3 and storage facilities. They compliment each other.

Unless future commando force is going to use RIBS only??

rfn_weston

They’ll be lucky to raid the NAAFI without the Albion’s.

maurice10

I’m afraid we have to get use to reduced assets as the ominous COVID costs show their ugly heads, in the months and possibly years to come. I’m reaching a point where I’d prefer the UK to own reduced assets than lose them altogether. Only three Wedgtails will mean only two serviceable at any one time, not perfect but what choice do the MOD have? CH2LEP for example, will be an acid test, but if we only get 100, that would be better than none at all. The above vessels are duplicated and the possibility of losing sister hulls can… Read more »

Steve

I am curious how this task force is going to test the new capability, if the helicopters have been otherwise deployed.

Nigel Collins

Interesting to note how the US is planning to change its tactics.

25 SEPTEMBER 2020

“US Marine Corps Commandant says traditional amphib ships still needed, but service will focus on new smaller fleet”

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/us-marine-corps-commandant-says-traditional-amphib-ships-still-needed-but-service-will-focus-on-new-smaller-fleet

pkcasimir

Other than an undefended landing zone against a foe with no airpower just who can this “strike force” strike?

Airborne

I see having the tactical ability, to land/threaten areas which have access to sea/associated with the sea, is not understood by yourself. Other nations have to develop there own strategy and this has to be taken into there planning considerations. It must be great being so great eh pk…..cough

Daniele Mandelli

He gets the tissues out daily…they’re soaked…oh to be an American with the world at your feet! Or so he thinks.

julian1

Alot of americans are actually anti-British or at best ambivalent. Some even hold KG3 and the taxes against us still! I don’t really care that much, but it just means we shouldn’t look to them as our number one buddy even though there are shared interests. I would put PK in that camp – i don’t really know why he uses the site. A Trumpian troll as opposed to a Russian troll – takes all sorts

Doug Stenning

Sorry but this is BS. I’ve worked with American companies a lot and have many friends in Boston for many years. They love the UK. The only ones you’ll have issues with are the ones that claim they’re Irish even though their previous 3 generations were born in Boston.

To claim that a lot of Americans hold the revolution against us still is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard.

Although that said I still live in the UK and watch the news so… Maybe not the most absurd thing I’ve heard.

julian1

I would suggest your experience of Americans is rather limited. White Republican americans find UK too liberal and not conservative enough whilst most african americans will associate UK with imperialism and slavery. Latin americans won’t really care either way. They do like the EPL, Brit music and some TV though. But really, beyond a small minority, most don’t give two hoots. Even the Democrat press look down on us!

Jonny

I’ve met many Americans online who despise our “communist” healthcare system… On the other hand I’ve met plenty that would prefer universal healthcare so… swings and roundabouts

Dern

And that’s why America is divided into states, even back in the 1700’s it was diverse enough that generalising “Americans” was pretty damn hard.

Rob

What is Littoral Response? I think they mean an amphibious warfare group. Now amphibiosity requires certain assets: Landing craft Helicopters Assault ships Specialist light infantry (Marines) Specialist supporting arms Air cover / support Naval gun support. At the moment some of these are under threat and we still do not have a helicopter assault ship. Deploying a QE class carrier in the LHA role is stupid because it removes a strike carrier and puts a great big expensive ship in range of shore based assets, removing the point in having such ships. For this to work we need to retain… Read more »

BB85

My guess is a littoral response is a more friendly method of landing troops on a coast line, either for humanitarian aid or to reinforce a friendly ally. I don’t think the RN would even consider an amphibious assault on an unfriendly state these days unless it was a Falkland Island scenario which which is now going to happen.

Airborne

Ah I just thought they spelt it wrong and it was supposed to say shittoral response! Which will unfortunately become our default response in the future!!!!!

Gavin Gordon

‘Littoral’, from the Latin ‘Litor’ – meaning ‘Shore’. Nowadays refers to a place where you find loads of ‘Litter’ – meaning ‘Rubbish’. Hence ‘Littoral Response’ – a well meaning effort (in this case by the RN) to collect and bag mostly plastic crap and take away in some big ships. The Government shortly proposes to throw these ships on the scrap heap, still full of the plastic crap, by way of saving on the effort to empty them.
Regards

Rob

Actually I think it is a ‘Literal response.’ I.E. using words to deflect from the fact that the MOD can no longer afford a proper amphibious force. Now that’s very stupid for an island country that can only deploy over the beach, on a helicopter or by parachute.

Robert Blay

Stupid, or do we really need it? when did we last have to storm a beach for real

Daniele Mandelli

But having to storm is irrelevant, surely, as these assets are just as useful on an uncontested coast. There could be no port available. There might be undefended coastline. We have a ship with the means to transfer men and equipment to the shore. Bay’s carry 1 Landing Craft. Albions carry 8. Remove Albion’s your men cannot go ashore unless in small boats. People keep equating a LPD with combat, there might be none. No LPD means no landing whether it is contested or not. Were the San Carlos landings opposed like on D Day? As in Landng craft under… Read more »

Steve

I was going to say WW2, but i think if you look at the falklands war, whilst non-contested, the defenders knew the task forces was coming and so the attackers worked around that using a number of tactics to ensure that the landing was non-contested. In that scenario, you have a relatively small area to defend and the defenders knowing the attack was coming.

I however think a fully contested landing would be suicide in 2020. Guided ant-tank missiles etc would make light work of any attackers well before they got near the beach.

Daniele Mandelli

Agree. I still suggest an LPD or similar is required, even for non contested landings.

If the LPD is too vulnerable as people point out something needs to replace it.

Not always will there be a port.
Or we simply give up on this type of deployment.
Considering most of the world’s populations are near the coast, I’d have thought a combination of sea air delivery is ideal.

Steve

Agreed, there needs to be a way to land heavy gear on a beach, where we can’t rely on helicopters.

Supportive Bloke

Fantastic – worth of Bernard’s pedantry in Yes Minister

Supportive Bloke

*worthy

Airborne

As ever new terminology hides cuts and lack of depth in nearly every capability. Depth and the ability to sustain losses and continue to operate effectively is a key component of warfare, one which alas is not considered by successive UK Governments.

Glass Half Full

The thing is though that an Albion class loaded up with men and equipment are a very high value target, the loss of which before off-loading would be significant for the UK and might kill a mission. Close in shore and moving slowly or stopped in the water makes them very vulnerable. Moving them further offshore to try to mitigate this means off-loading of equipment takes much longer, even with fast connectors, extending the threat window and likelihood of successful targeting. Vessels like Albion are becoming much more exposed to modern weaponry such as supersonic and stealth cruise missiles, and… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

These ships, I think I saw a graphic of a type the USN were looking at, something like an old LST straight from D Day. You mean that? That would be acceptable to me if it was for a northern flank reinforcement only. Larger numbers of ships??!! 😳🤪 what a refreshing alternative. Wash your mouth out at such talk! It does not tally with these strike groups forward deployed which we hear about, mind, if the RM are going back to their roots, as the latest MoD spin calls it. Also, why is it other countries still build and operate… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Hi Daniele – Not classic LSTs per se as they are too large and too slow. The Newport-class have the transit speed but still too large and I suspect too slow to set up for off-loading, since we wouldn’t want the ship “parked” on the beach for long either. What the USN are reportedly evaluating is the Stern Landing Vessel concept (link at bottom to the company), the site includes several links worth following. A video on the SEA Transport site outlines potential vessel characteristics. Size may be about right to distribute risk across a fleet of such ships but… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Oh I think I overlooked the northern flank observation.

Certainly, for me that’s the high level priority for capability/deterrence, however unlikely it might be in practice that Russia moves into Northern Norway or Svalbard. But I don’t consider the ships limited to that as it would be too niche. To quote, “USNI News understands that something like a SLV would combine a surface ship’s ability to have great enough endurance and range to be operationally useful to commanders and a landing craft’s ability to beach itself to offload larger equipment.”

Daniele Mandelli

Good reply as always GHF. You know your stuff. Thanks.

Steve

I never really got the northern flank argument, surely if we are going to be reinforcing NATO then we would be landing on territory still held by allies. If Russia had already taken Norway etc, then the northern flank is too late and we would surely be better landing in France.

Daniele Mandelli

Saboteurs may have scuttled ships at the ports making conventional port landings impossible?

Glass Half Full

The territory may still be in allied hands but ports are known, fixed locations and a ship entering the harbour or alongside will be very vulnerable. That’s why using Point class into Norwegian harbours isn’t the solution, we need to be able to land material and vehicles onto a beach and we need to be able to do it disembark rapidly. Why so vulnerable? Because of what the threat looks like tomorrow with stealth, supersonic and new hypersonic weapons. We might hope or even expect to successfully defend against stealth and supersonic weapons, but we don’t have a good answer… Read more »

Airborne

Look at the topography of Norway and it becomes apparent that a capability to put men and stores ashore, away from a port/dock is essential. For an enemy to move through Norway would be slow, and their SF/airborne/amphibious forces would also expected to be involved. We would be reinforcing a still in the fight Norway not an occupied one mate.

Bill

Don’t forget the QE has gimpys as a last line of defence.
Let’s hope we only get threatened by A4 Skyhawks…

Glass Half Full

Sorry Bill not following the point you’re making.

Daniele Mandelli

I think he was posting with sarcasm over the perceived lack of close in air defence coverage, that the RN resorts to GPMGs and small arms like it did in Bomb Alley against the Argentinean A4s.

Glass Half Full

Thanks, I presumed it might be a dig at QE defences. The problem is the elephant in the room that seems to be ignored when discussing the topic. We might add Sea Ceptor to QE but what is that going to do against tomorrows threats? The US and French are in no better position with their current carrier weapons against these future threats. We can’t ignore where weapons are going and the most likely threat to a carrier will be maneuverable non-ballistic trajectory hypersonic missiles. The Russians, Chinese, Japanese and Americans are all developing them. To defend against those (at… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Is there a UK or European follow on to Sea Viper in the works to deal with these? I keep reading the hypersonic threat is overblown insofar as they need to actually find a target first, and the carrier has plenty of sea to hide in.

Glass Half Full

The threat is a timeline and technology issue. A threat today – probably not, a threat in 10 years – more likely, 20 years – perhaps a certainty. Hence why whatever we plan for our future fleets should take into account this threat. I’ve tried to provide a balanced perspective in the following. An example, the Chinese have DF-21D and DF-26 today. Both are thought to be anti-ship missiles and also thought to have a maneuverable warhead. However, the challenge is to be able to accurately target a ship with them. Targeting requires a kill chain that can accurately pin… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Are you Gunbuster or Davey in disguise?! Call me educated! Thanks GHF.

Supportive Bloke

Increasing number of platforms increases cost.

Current RN doctrine seems to be to supersize everything just in case they get the budget to buy some weapons fit.

The other side of it is that you need at least two of everything. A larger class of small ships will get salami sliced to two small ships.

So, whilst I see the logic in what you are saying, I’d be amazed if it got traction.

Steve

It’s a dangerous tactic, as it means way too many eggs in a small number of basket. It relies on having enough of the equipment available when you need it and then relies on none of them breaking down on way or being taken out.

Glass Half Full

Well we currently have 2x Albions, 3x Bays, 4x Points (on PFI) and Argus. So as we look at what we want out of our amphibious and sealift capabilities in future we are starting with 10 ships already. The key is defining what exactly we want or expect to do with them in peacetime all the way up to a hot war. If we can address everything we need with a single class then this would be an ideal vessel for UK shipbuilding too, with efficiencies in cranking out a single class in numbers, with possible commercial market spin offs.… Read more »

dan

Did any Spanish ships come out to “greet” them? lol

David T

Lyme Bay should be bristling with Apaches instead of an empty flight deck

Daniele Mandelli
Andy

I think many here are missing the point, this group is EXPERIMENTAL.

The future commando force won’t likely use Albion or Bays. They are testing the concepts, which I believe has new vehicles and AI.

I don’t think we can assault any peers littoral with the kit we have. Hence we should replace it with something more survivable, stealthy and lethal.

Perhaps we can do it with large underwater vehicles or ambitious light tanks with hundreds of miles range.

Steve

Whilst the start is true the end isn’t. We will be replacing the kit with cheaper vessels that are less survivable, stealthy, lethal than existing kit.

The real problem is we do not really know what scenario the concept is designed to counter, as it is for sure not a heavily defended landing, as there wouldn’t be the gear to counter it, if somehow i got to the shore.

Andy

For me, the scenarios are storming the coast of Norway or islands in the SCS.

I’d like to be able to deploy to Norway directly from Scotland with no massive assault or landing craft involved, likewise between islands in the SCS.

Andy

We can fit at least..

– 60 Commandos on each River 2
– 80 on each Type 31
– 50 on each Type 26

That’s over 1000 RM, or more than Albion and Bulwark combined. As many have said here.. the commando IS the weapon.

Daniele Mandelli

But those ships will never be concentrated, so the 1000 RM point is moot. So yes, maybe several small units grouped in these Littoral Strike Groups on what ships are present. How does one spread our limited aviation assets to cover these groups? What can a small unit like that achieve? How do they get ashore from the ships? The ships flight Wildcat or Merlin are for other tasks. That leaves RIBs. RIBs can not carry the supplies needed, or heavier firepower ashore. Maybe a new faster craft is in the offering. Unless the Albions and Bays or faster replacement… Read more »

Andy

Indeed, this is not a solution but it’s is a great capability. I think for aviation we need to share resources amongst platforms and lillypad as a matter of course.

Dern

If you’re only carrying 50-80 men you’re probably not going to be carrying anything heavier than a Jav launcher anyway.

David Barry

Can we leave it in Gib for a week or three to let the news sink in for the Spanish? Asking for a friend.

Gunbuster

Royal when on an LPD has been doing raiding for many years and not really concentrating on full on beach assaults so the current focus is a step up and formal change and reinforcement of what has already been happening. The LCUs have previously been used as mothership/petrol stations by carrying fuel bladders for smaller ORCs allowing the RMs from what was then 539 to move hundreds of miles beyond what would be there normal operating range. This opens up a far larger area of operations and allows raids to go in just about anywhere along many hundreds of miles… Read more »

Phil

I think the US Marines (and now the UK) have already worked out that in the day of the really plentiful and really cheap ground-launched long-range hypersonic missiles (available at a discount from China/Russia) the idea that you can have half-a-dozen ships tootling round an enemy shore re-enacting Normandy or Inchon is simply going to get a lot of good men killed. Commando Forces will have to deploy from well over the horizon in small scale surgical strike/special forces type operations – just as they were originally founded to do in WW2. I mean all those dramatic shots of a… Read more »

Jonny

Great now lets use it to invade Spain