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Response Force Task Group

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Response Force Task Group

Response Force Task Group
HMS Albion (the then Fleet Flagship), RFA Fort Rosalie and HMS Ocean of the RFTG conducting replenishment at sea during Cougar 11
Active 2010–present
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Navy
Role Expeditionary & Direct Fleet Operations
Part of United Kingdom Task Group
Garrison/HQ Stonehouse BKS, Plymouth
Engagements Operation Ellamy 2011
COMUKMARFOR RAdm Robert Tarrant
COMUKTG Cdre Jerry Kyd

The Response Force Task Group (RFTG) is the Royal Navy's expeditionary task force maintained at high-readiness and available at short notice to respond to unexpected global events.[1] In addition to the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines, the RFTG also includes elements of the British Army and the Royal Air Force. While it is poised to conduct war-fighting or amphibious operations, the RFTG is capable of undertaking a diverse range of activities such as evacuation operations, disaster relief or humanitarian aid.[2] The RFTG was established under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Command structure

Response Force Task Group is directly commanded at sea by Commander UK Task Group (COMUKTG), typically an officer the rank of Commodore. COMUKTG is in-turn subordinate to Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces (COMUKMARFOR) who is responsible for directing "UK, Allied or Coalition maritime forces anywhere in the world".[3]

The amphibious operations undertaken by Response Force Task Group are directly overseen (typically) by Commander 3 Commando Brigade. As of October 2012 this was held by Brigadier Martin Smith.[4] However, the Commandant General Royal Marines (who also holds the appointment of Commander United Kingdom Amphibious Forces (COMUKAMPHIBFOR)) has the ultimate responsibility for amphibious and littoral warfare operations.

Commander UK Task Group has been as follows:

  • Commodore John Kingwell (2010-2011)[2]
  • Commodore Paddy McAlpine (2012-2013)[5]
  • Commodore Jerry Kyd (2014-)[6]


The "scaleable nature of the Response Force Task Group" means the Royal Navy assigns a wide range of relatively significant assets to the force, with its composition changing depending on the scenario and the range of ships available.[7]


Cougar 11

In April 2011, the Response Force Task Group deployed for the first time since its announced establishment in October 2010. The deployment was "designed to demonstrate the versatile capabilities and high readiness" of the Response Force Task Group and engage with foreign allies in the Mediterranean Sea and East of Suez.[8] On 9 May (en route to Cyprus), 7 Senior NCOs and the Officer Commanding the Support Troop from 6 Assault Squadron Royal Marines held a service of remembrance at the Souda Bay Commonwealth Grave site in Crete to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bitter battle for the island.[9]

Cougar 11 saw, for the first time, British Army AgustaWestland Apache attack helicopters operating from the decks of a Royal Navy warship (HMS Ocean (L12)).[10]

During the deployment the RFTG was involved in several multinational exercises: The first was 'Cypriot Lion' which included Royal Marines from 40 Commando, elements of 3 Commando Brigade HQ and a detachment from the Netherlands Marine Corps. The second major exercise was code-named 'Albanian Lion', a joint UK-Albanian military exercise and the first joint operation between the UK and the Albanian Armed Forces since Albania joined NATO in 2009.[11] The third major exercise was code-named 'Operation Red Alligator', described as a "major maritime security and anti-piracy exercise", it took place in the Gulf with the Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia.[12]

Response Force Task Group consisted of eleven Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships during Cougar 11, as well as elements from the Royal Marines, the Fleet Air Arm and British Army.[13] A warship of the French Navy was also deployed.[14]

Libyan Civil War

Ocean with AgustaWestland Apache gunships during Operation Ellamy

With the ongoing Civil War in Libya, on the 3 June 2011, five ships of the Response Force Task Group were temporarily detached and deployed off the Libyan coast as part of Operation Ellamy (the United Kingdoms contribution to the 2011 military intervention in Libya).[15] Of those diverted to Libya; Ocean launched repeated Apache gunships strikes from her flight deck and worked alongside the French amphibious assault ship Tonnerre (L9014), which deployed her own Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters.[16] HMS Liverpool (D92) (an air-defence guided-missile destroyer) spent seven months enforcing the no-fly zone and preventing arms from reaching pro-Gaddafi forces by sea.[17] HMS Triumph (S93) (a nuclear-powered fleet submarine) fired her Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles at Libyan air defence and command and control centres. Analysts believe that in total more than 15 cruise missiles were fired by the submarine during the operations.[18] HMS Sutherland (F81) (a frigate) was involved in enforcing the naval blockade and arms embargo by embarking a detachment of Royal Marines to board and search merchant vessels in Libyan waters.[19] The fifth ship of the RFTG diverted to Operation Ellamy was from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, which supported the naval operations off the Libyan coast.

Cougar 12

Response Force Task Group in the Mediterranean Sea during Cougar 12
HMS Bulwark (L15) (current Fleet Flagship) with a French Mistral-class amphibious assault ship during Cougar 12

Cougar 12 saw Response Force Task Group deploy six ships and more than 3,000 marines and sailors to the Mediterranean in early October 2012. One of the principle purposes of the deployment was to conduct large-scale amphibious exercises with participating allies. Key exercises included: 'Corsican Lion' with France; 'Albanian Lion' with Albania; a visit to Malta and exercises with the United States Navy and the Algerian Armed Forces.[20]

Commander UK Task Group, Commodore Paddy McAlpine said: "Cougar 12 provides us with a superb opportunity to rekindle our amphibious capability after a prolonged period when our focus has been on operations elsewhere."[20]

Exercise 'Corsican Lion' was the main focus of Cougar 12 and was designed to towards developing the maritime and amphibious components of the Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF). The exercise involved the Response Force Task Group working directly alongside the French Navy's Task Force 473 and the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91).[4]

Head of the RFTG's amphibious operations, Brigadier Martin Smith of 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, was quoted saying: "It is an incredibly versatile force and our burgeoning interoperability with the French further proves this. The quality of Royal Marines Commandos and French Marines delivers a highly effective first response capability which is optimised for early entry operations."[4]

Cougar 13

Cougar 13 deployed in during the early autumn of 2013 and consisted of eleven ships from the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary; The amphibious transport dock Bulwark (the Fleet Flagship), the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious (R06), the frigates HMS Montrose (F236) and HMS Westminster (F237), the Bay-class landing ships RFA Lyme Bay (L3007), RFA Mounts Bay (L3008) and RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009), the replenishment ships RFA Fort Austin (A386) and RFA Fort Victoria (A387), the forward repair ship RFA Diligence (A132) and the Point-class sealift ship MV Hurst Point.[21][22] Other elements attached to the Response Force Task Group included; Royal Marines Armoured Support Group with BvS 10 Viking armoured vehicles,[23] 3 Commando Brigade HQ, 42 Commando and a detachment from 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group, the Commando Logistics Regiment, and elements from 29th Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers and 17 Port and Maritime Regiment Royal Logistics Corps. The French ship Somme (A631) (a replenishment ship of the French Navy) was reportedly deployed with the RFTG, re-supplying Illustrious.[24][25]

A US Navy V-22 Osprey landing on the deck of HMS Illustrious during Cougar 13

In the Mediterranean, Response Force Task Group held exercises with the Portuguese Marine Corps and once again conducted exercise 'Albanian Lion' with the Albanian Armed Forces.[26] Anti-surface exercises were also held with the Hellenic Navy and anti-submarine drills with the Italian Navy.[27][28]

During mid September 2013, Response Force Task Group deployed East of Suez for the second phase of the Cougar 13 deployment where it linked up with the Royal Saudi Navy for exercise 'Red Alligator'.[29] While East of Suez, a Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey from the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) landed on Illustrious in a joint exercise with the United States Navy. Likewise, Illustrious's Army Air Corps Westland Lynx and Westland Sea Kings dropped in on the Kearsarge, carrying a few passengers to get a brief insight into the America LHD.[30]

In the Gulf of Oman, Response Force Task Group conducted anti-submarine drills against the USS Dallas (SSN-700).[31] HMS Quorn (M41) briefly joined the RFTG for exercise 'Sea Khanjar'.[32] Exercise 'Sea Khanjar' was observed by Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Philip Jones, Commandant General Royal Marines Major General Ed Davis, Lieutenant General Mike Hindmarsh and Commander United Arab Emirates Presidential Guard Marines, Colonel A Al-Tenaji.[33]

Typhoon Haiyan

When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013, HMS Illustrious was ordered to detach from the Response Force Task Group and assist in the disaster relief efforts.[34] The mission was known as Operation Patwin, HMS Daring (D32) was already in the Far East when the tragedy struck and was swiftly able to provide humanitarian aid.[35]

Cougar 14

The RFTG departed on Cougar 14 during early September 2014 for a four month deployment scheduled to conduct exercises and engage with foreign navies in the Mediterranean and East of Suez in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.[6] The Task Group includes HMS Ocean (L12), HMS Bulwark (L15), HMS Northumberland (F238), RFA Lyme Bay (L3007) and RFA Wave Ruler (A390). It was also announced several months before the commencement of Cougar 14 that the Task Group would be accompanied by Schleswig-Holstein (F216), a Brandenburg-class frigate of the German Navy.[36] Notable international warships that took the opportunity to rendezvous and participate with Cougar 14 are the USS Makin Island (LHD-8), the USS San Diego (LPD-22) and the French ships Courbet (F 712) and Dixmude (L9015).[37][38]

The first phase of Cougar 14 was exercise Albanian Lion 2014, followed by exercise Dragon Hammer 2014, concluding by 17 October 2014.[39] Several ships also broke off to participate in the middle-eastern IMCMEX exercise. Once completed, they will resume the Cougar 14 Task Group with further exercises in the region.[40][41]

See also


  1. ^ The Response Force Task Group (RFTG) - The UK's Very High Readiness Maritime Force, Royal Navy (PDF), Retrieved 3 June 2014
  2. ^ a b Royal Navy ready for unforeseen global events,, 9 May 2011
  3. ^ Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces (archive),, Retrieved 3 June 2014
  4. ^ a b c Royal Marines face French counterparts in Exercise Corsican Lion,, 23 October 2012
  5. ^ Royal Navy sails for annual ‘Cougar’ deployment,, 9 August 2013
  6. ^ a b Royal Navy Task Force departs on Cougar 14,, 1 September 2014
  7. ^ The Response Force Task Group, Royal Navy Fact Sheet, 2011
  8. ^ Royal Navy Cougar 11 Force begins exercises off Cyprus,, 13 May 2011
  9. ^ Task Group Link Up For Exercise In Cyprus,
  10. ^ Army's Apache fires first Hellfire missiles at sea,, 13 May 2011
  11. ^ Precise Media Planner, Joint UK-Albanian military exercise 'Albanian Lion' begins, Precise Media Planner, May 26, 2011
  12. ^ Cougar task group sharpens its teeth in Saudi Arabia,
  13. ^ Global Operations COUGAR,
  15. ^ Task Force Sent To Libya To Ratchet Up The Pressure On Gaddafi,
  16. ^ "NATO Uses Attack Helicopters for First Time in Libya". Fox News. 4 June 2011. 
  17. ^ Liverpool home in triumph from Libyan mission,, 7 November 2011
  18. ^ "No end in sight as RAF marks 100 days over Libya". BBC News. 4 October 2011. 
  19. ^ Ministry of Defence (27 July 2011). "HMS Sutherland begins boarding operations off Libya". Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  20. ^ a b Naval force gears up for Cougar 12,, 27 September 2012
  21. ^ Royal Navy set for Cougar 13,, 8 August 2013
  22. ^ Operational Deployments COUGAR 13 (archive),, Retrieved 4 June 2014
  23. ^ Viking warriors show their mettle as Royal Marines blast away on the Dorset ranges,, 19 July 2013
  24. ^ Supply meets demand on Cougar 13,, 30 August 2013
  25. ^ RFA Fort Austin, HMS Illustrious Met Up during Cougar 13,, 2 September 2013
  26. ^ HMS Bulwark Portuguese Marines,
  27. ^ Warship practises hunter-killer scenario with Greek navy,, 29 August 2013
  28. ^ HMS Westminster practises submarine hunting skills,, 3 September 2013
  29. ^ Cougar wrestles with Alligator as task group exercises with Saudis,, 18 September 2013
  30. ^ ‘A little bit special’ – unique US aircraft lands on Illustrious,, 19 September 2013
  31. ^ HMS Westminster in hunt for USS Dallas,, 3 October 2013
  32. ^ HMS Quorn guides task group safely through troubled waters,, 10 October 2013
  33. ^ The RFTG completes Exercise Sea Khanjar in UAE,, 15 October 2013
  34. ^ British carrier HMS Illustrious to aid typhoon victims,, 14 November 2013
  35. ^ Operation Patwin,, Retrieved 2014
  36. ^ German frigate visits London,, 24 January 2014
  37. ^ Bulwark tries out Osprey,, 22 October 2014
  38. ^ Sea King a French Connection,, 22 October 2014
  39. ^ “Albanian Lion 2014” exercise opening ceremony conducted,, 8 September 2014
  40. ^ HMS Bulwark leads ten-ship task group on Gulf exercise,, 7 November 2014
  41. ^ Core of Royal Navy’s Middle East presence joins massive international minehunting exercise,, 6 November 2014

External links

  • Response Force Task Group (RFTG) (Royal Navy PDF)
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