The Joint Expeditionary Force has sailed peacefully through the Suez Canal ready for operations and exercises in the Middle East.
Assault ship HMS Bulwark led the way, followed by helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, plus strategic sea lift vessel MV Eddystone Point – carrying much of the heavy equipment Royal Marines will use on exercises.
The Task Group has already exercised with NATO allies in the Aegean, hosted a reception for Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Egypt and conducted an act of remembrance in Alexandria.
The government say the deployment proves the UK’s ability to deploy highly effective maritime forces anywhere in the world at short notice.
Now that the Task Group is safely through the Suez Canal, exercises with other navies including Gulf states in the Indian Ocean, will ensure the task group’s readiness for contingent operations, and provide opportunities to maintain relationships with partner nations.
Commodore Andrew Burns, Commander Amphibious Task Group, said:
“Now we have transited the Suez Canal my focus remains on demonstrating the Royal Navy’s ability to project a credible force into the Middle East and promote the UK’s interests there.
The Task Group remain ready to protect them wherever they might be challenged.”
The JEF is intended as a pool of high readiness, adaptable forces that is designed to enhance the UK’s ability to respond rapidly, anywhere in the world, with like-minded allies, or on behalf of international organisations such as the UN or NATO. The UK’s contribution will include the lead commando, airborne, armoured, aviation, air and maritime task groups.
Speaking before the Royal United Services Institute, Sir David Richards outlined the specific applications that the capabilities of the Joint Expeditionary Force will allow:
“With the capability to ‘punch’ hard and not be a logistical or tactical drag on a coalition, we will be especially welcomed by our friends and feared by our enemies.
JEF will be capable of projecting power with global effect and influence. Nowhere is more important to us than our friends in the Middle East and Gulf and in line with clear political intent we would expect, with other initiatives, for JEF elements to spend more time reassuring and deterring in that region.”