Royal Navy completes notable mission in Montenegro
The UK’s Littoral Response Group (North), a task force led by amphibious flagship HMS Albion, has been operating in the Mediterranean forging closer bonds with NATO allies and partners and protecting the security and prosperity of the strategically important region.
After stops in Libya, Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt, HMS Albion led her task group, including RFA Argus, RFA Mounts Bay and destroyer HMS Defender, into the Adriatic Sea.
First up was multinational exercises that included NATO’s leading Mediterranean security task force and US Navy supercarrier USS George H W Bush and her escort ships, then into Montenegro to bring the militaries of both nations closer together, share knowledge and improve their ability to operate together.
Montenegro joined NATO in 2017 and has welcomed the Royal Navy on several occasions, but never on this scale – three ships, helicopter squadrons and more than a thousand sailors and Royal Marines converged on the country for a range of military exercises along the stunning coastlines and into the mountains.
It continued to develop ever-deepening bonds between the UK and Montenegro militarily, but also in trade, security and in the fight against serious organised crime.
Royal Marines – from 45 Commando, 42 Commando and 4 Assault Squadron – trained with Montenegrin forces in casualty evacuations, anti-armour tactics, close-quarters battle, countering improvised explosive devices, board and search and amphibious warfare tactics.
Eight days of exercises were highly fruitful for both allies.
Captain Simon Kelly, Commander of the Response Force and Commanding Officer of HMS Albion, said: “What a fantastic honour it has been to train alongside, shoulder to shoulder, with the Montenegrin Armed Forces.
“It’s been a privilege to be here in Montenegro and to work with such an important NATO partner.
“My sailors and Royal Marines have learnt a great deal in partnership with the Montenegrin Armed Forces.
“The Montenegrins have welcomed us with open arms. We’ve trained in their mountains, we’ve trained in the air alongside them, and we’ve trained in their waters.
“In every way it has been land, air, and sea throughout the last week. It’s been a real pleasure to work with such a brilliant NATO partner.”
HMS Albion, RFA Argus and RFA Mounts Bay were in the port of Bar in southern Montenegro at the end of the exercises, where the ships hosted Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dritan Abazović and British ambassador to Montenegro, Karen Maddocks, among other figureheads.
42 Commando – Royal Marines who are the specialists in maritime boarding operations – and Montenegrin counterparts laid on a thrilling demo of board and search and rescue operations.
Ambassador Maddocks said: “I’m delighted to welcome so many of our partners in Montenegro onto the ship to see some of her capabilities. We see HMS Albion and the other ships here this week as a powerful and very visible reminder of the UK’s support for Montenegro, as a fellow NATO ally.
“I hope the UK has shown that we are committed to the stability and security of Montenegro and the Western Balkans region.”
Rear Admiral Robert Pedre, Commander of the UK Strike Force, added: “It is great to be here in Montenegro, witnessing the Royal Navy and Royal Marines training alongside their colleagues within the Montenegrin Armed Forces as they celebrate the fifth anniversary of their joining NATO.
“Montenegro is an important Ally and key partner for both the UK and the unified nations within NATO; I have been exceptionally fortunate to witness a cohesive and unified force working so seamlessly together.”