Royal Navy task group heads for the Baltic for Sweden's largest military drills in more than 25 years
The UK strongly supports Sweden’s accession to NATO and continues to operate closely with the Swedish Armed Forces as part of the British-led Joint Expeditionary Force, which is designed to react to events in Europe’s many crucial waterways and chokepoints.
As part of that continued close cooperation – which also includes an agreement on deliveries of Archer self-propelled guns to Britain – HMS Albion is part of a task group of ships and commandos into the Baltic for an exercise designed to test Sweden’s ability to counter an armed attack on the country.
Some 26,000 troops and 14 nations are lined-up for the training across the Nordic nation and the Royal Navy will be at heart of it, carrying out amphibious exercises, led by amphibious flagship Albion and commandos, including Royal Marines from 45 Commando, as part of the high-readiness Littoral Response Group (LRG).
The training is the largest Swedish national exercise of its kind in more than 25 years.
“Albion and the Littoral Response Group’s last period of operations took us north to Arctic Norway, where we participated in a significant Joint Expeditionary Force exercise,” said Captain Marcus Hember, Commanding Officer of HMS Albion.
“Our next period of operations is going to take us to the Baltic, where again we’ll be exercising with allies and partners and demonstrating the UK and the Royal Navy’s commitment to Northern European security.
“Albion has embarked marines and a wide range of equipment from 45 Commando as well as from across the UK Commando Forces enterprise.
“We're looking forward to getting back out there and showing our commitment to security at this difficult time.”
The task group heads to the Baltic fresh from exercises in the Arctic Circle, where Norway hosted similar training to test their ability to protect their nation from attack.
RFA Mounts Bay and Albion operated closely with Dutch forces, led by HNLMS Rotterdam, carrying out amphibious landings on the complex landscape of Norwegian fjords.
Now, the Royal Marines face an entirely different challenge on Sweden's rugged coastline – across the many inlets and islands that dot the region.
It’s a challenge they’re relishing, with the training – codenamed Exercise Aurora – taking place mainly in south Sweden and in Gotland, a large island that sits in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
The RAF and British Army are also involved in the drills, as Sweden changes its focus from international operations to national defence.
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Timmins, Officer Commanding of 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines, said: “We are very much looking forward to forthcoming deployment which will both offer demanding amphibious training and rewarding port visits.
“Exercise Aurora will provide unique opportunities to further develop littoral strike capabilities for the UK Commando Force.”
The backdrop to the exercises is Finland’s accession to NATO earlier this month.
Lieutenant Sarah Murrison, the Deputy Logistics Officer with Albion, said: “Continuing from last year with a busy ship’s programme I am keen to explore new places and also to train with our partners in the Baltic region particularly with Finland’s accession to NATO.”