Junglies make the French Connection
'Chasing Pirates off the Barbary Coast’; could have been a chapter heading taken from a Robert Louis Stephenson novel involving 'Swash-buckling sea Captains’ or 'Long John Silver’. But this is all part of the scenario for Exercise Corsican Lion, the UK and French Amphibious Exercise taking place off the coast of Corsica, which has been renamed 'Barbary Coast’ for the week and the Pirates are a make-believe enemy.
Sea Kings from Commando Helicopter Force have deployed Royal Marines alongside their French counterparts ashore from the Rapid Force Task Group working as part of the new Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) – a specialist amphibious fighting unit that can take part in a range of sea and land operations.
The UK group with up to 3000 Sailors and Marines from the UK’s RFTG and French Naval Forces and Marines from the 2nd RiMa Regt, met up in the Northern Mediterranean before heading towards the exercise area. The French Carrier Strike group based around the nuclear powered Flagship FS Charles De Gaulle, carries up to 40 fixed wing aircraft; a mixture of fighters, bombers and reconnaissance planes. Corsican Lion is the first major naval exercise to test the maritime element of the new CJEF between the United Kingdom and France. The Junglies from HMS Illustrious took this first encounter with the French carrier to get acquainted with her flight deck and learn valuable lessons for future operations when the UK’s own Queen Elizabeth class carriers come into service.
Lieutenant Will Orme, a Sea King Pilot was the first Junglie to touch down on the French super Carrier. “It’s an awesome size ship; it’s like a small airfield at sea. Flying onto her between the waves of fixed wing taking off and landing is pretty tight, an insight for our future Carrier operations”.
Although the main training objective is to prove that the two countries can work side-by-side, it also offers the chance to integrate each others equipment and communications. Corsican Lion comes under 'Cougar 12’, the Royal Navy’s two month deployment to the Mediterranean. Working together gives the UK and France the flexibility and capability to conduct military strike and intervention operations whilst supporting cross-government needs by conducting regional engagement, maritime security and evacuation, delivering humanitarian air or carrying out disaster relief.
“Trooping drills with the French Marines is the same as with our Royal Marines. They have some different ways of operating and everyone is interested in their kit. We’ve flown around the exercise area and they have the same tactics as 3 Commando Brigade”. Said Corporal Mark Haffenden; a Commando Aircrewman onboard with the RFTG.
Further exercises of the CJEF will take place over the next two years as the Royal Navy moves towards a fully operational Anglo-French force.