Breaking – Royal Navy Task Group to Libya

Royal Marines Board Sea King Helicopter on HMS...

Image by Defence Images via Flickr

The Navy News website reports that the bulk of the Royal Navy Task Group that had been exercising off Cyprus has now sailed for operations off Libya.

The Landing Ship HMS Albion, Type 23 Frigate HMS Sutherland, Tanker RFA Wave Knight and support ship RFA Fort Rosalie have broken away from long-planned training exercises to join the international effort against Colonel Gadaffi‘s regime. The Helicopter Carrier HMS Ocean had sailed some days before, carrying Army Air Corps Apaches. Britain already has the Destroyer HMS Liverpool, Minesweeper HMS Brocklesby and the Submarine HMS Turbulent on station.

Albion will serve as the command ship, carring Commodore John Kingwell. She is also carrying Royal Marine Commandos. Sutherland will undertake very similar duties to Liverpool in blockading the Libyan coast, while the auxiliaries will be available to both British and international vessels. There has been no word as yet on the movements of the two other ships in the Task Force – the RFA Landing Ships Cardigan Bay and Mounts Bay.

We were told less than a year ago by ‘call me Dave’ that such a deployment would not be necesary for the next ten years. Thankfully we are operating with allies, as the Task Group has no air cover of its own, no any ability to project any. True, jets may be flying ‘epic’ missions (copyright RAF PR Department) from Britain and Italy, but even the French have sent their carrier close in. Shorter range, more economic, more time on station, more flexible.

In terms of getting involved in the land side of things, its hard to see how that could happen. The embarked military force consists of 40 Commando RM, along with ‘elements’ of 3 Commando Brigade Headquarters. These must be very small elements, as the HQ was in Afghanistan when the Task Force sailed some time ago. Apparently there are also a small number of Netherlands Marines onboard, along with other Brigade troops. A reinforced Commando Group with some support elements does not constitute much of a ground force. On the plus side, the force has just trained in amphibious landings.

The lack of ground forces is in some respects fortunate, as the Task Group has scant ability to land much more than that anyway. Ocean’s tailored air group is more aimed at attack aircraft than transporting men ashore. Albion’s sister Bulwark is currently working up, and could join the Task Group if need be. But apart from that, the Royal Navy is creaking – there are no more ships that could be called upon – they are all either at sea or deep in refit.



Filed under Navy, News, Uncategorized

21 responses to “Breaking – Royal Navy Task Group to Libya

  1. John Erickson

    I’m hard-pressed to come up with a land-target attack mission for those troops. Perhaps more as a security contingent, to oversee opening of harbours in, say, Misrata? Delivery and training in use of anti-tank weapons and heavy artillery? Let’s hope not as “backbone reinforcement” in the front lines – that sounds FAR too much like our American “advisors” helping a group of anti-Communists in a little country called Vietnam…..

  2. James Daly

    On the one hand I really wish we never need to get involved anywhere ever again. But sadly, isolationism and ostrich like behaviour only causes you problems in the long run, the world is a shitty place with plenty of bad people who just wont play along with that game. I’ve got no problem with intervention as long as it really is warranted – ie with Gadaffi, who clearly is mad and bad.

    I can’t really see what ground forces could do either. Taking the offensive is not plausible, as even though they could quite easily roll Gadaffi over IMO you would get the same old cassandras moaning about ‘war for oil’ and the like. Not good. As John mentions, security around docks, training for the anti-Gadaffi faction or as a contingency for any last-ditch humanitarian intervention if things get really nasty?

    The problem with the international community standing back and taking the low-intensity option is that theres a stalemate between the two sides, which does show, for me, that bombing and land attack missiles can only do so much. Firepower in terms of close battlefield support like Apache must surely help, in terms of helping the rebels punch through or break up attacks.

  3. x

    James said “the world is a shitty place with plenty of bad people who just wont play along with that game.”

    You have been to Southampton again haven’t you? 😉

    Our ability to project power ashore is pitiful.

    Compare 8 hour flights by 8 GR4s with 2 AAR evolutions (using 2 tankers) to launch 8 Storm Shadows to

    • John Erickson

      Don’t feel too badly, X. The US is supposed to be THE carrier nation, and we had to scramble to get a carrier into the region. I think the folk in our military who are supposed to watch out for trouble spots all need a good kick up the backside!
      And remember, James, neither a missile, nor warship, nor airplane can hold a single square millimeter of ground. You need the PBI, or lacking them, whatever passes for ground troops among the rebels.

      • x

        I am just beginning to think it is all a waste. I am sorrow for those who live under those awful regimes. But we Brits can’t even “defend” our own borders adequately. We “waste” a few hundred million this year. But who is to say that next year some other thug won’t be running the country?

        To be honest I am only really interest in playing fantasy fleet these days. 😦

      • John Erickson

        You are SO preaching to the choir. I’m starting to think the US should just step back and tell the world to go stuff it. We get crap from our allies (present company excluded, of course), crap from the neutrals, and crap from the people we’re trying to help. And we get MORE crap from everybody when we DON’T help. Pity so much of the world frowns on old-fashioned diplomacy. A dozen B-52s carrying dozens of 2,000 lb bombs, carpet-bombing a country from one side to the other ….. ah, the good old days. Makes you miss the old battlewagons – nothing like a barrage of 15″ or 16″ shells to make somebody see your point of view! 😀

        • x

          I would if I were the US. Your southern border is your country’s main security concern. Doesn’t mean the carriers have to go. Actually a CONUS centred security strategy would need the carriers more.

          One of the things I find troubling is the rather odd belief I hear from nay that the other guy is going to play by the rules in the next dust up. Modern society is saturated with a naive liberalism. There is us and them. It seems to many I converse with that “them” is increasingly more important than “us.”

        • John Erickson

          No arguments here. I always liked the one comic’s view (I forget who): “We should invade and take over Mexico. We have their population, we may as well have their real estate too.” 😀
          Actually, I say let ’em come in, fix everything up, THEN we invade them and force them all back home. Best of both worlds! 😉

          • x

            The lowest common dominator argument doesn’t fly in these politically correct times.

            I suppose Western civilization, whatever it is, is subject to entropy like everything else.

            We will know when the game is entering the final quarter when the Texas State Guard asks for MLRS and tactical nukes….

          • John Erickson

            I don’t know, that sounds so 1980s post-apocalyptic sci-fi. I’ll be more worried when they “Quebec” us and force Spanish up on all the road signs. Then again, I do speak fair Spanish, and comprehend a lot more, so maybe I get to be a Quisling! If so, you’re all hired for whatever Department they put me in! 😀

            • x

              Parts of the UK are a bit like that.

              In Wales only a 5th of the population speaks Welsh. Yet every road sign, form, website, indeed any official document has to be bi-lingual.

              The BBC has suddenly developed a love for Scottish Gaelic and started a TV station to promote the language. Yet only, at best, 90,000 out of 5,200,000 speak the language; about 2% of the population, Indeed Scotland is country of two near defunct languages because the low land Scots actually speak, um, Scots….

              The figure of 90,000 is interesting because it is slightly more than the population of the Isle of Man. Of the 87,000 residents of the island 1,600 which is roughly 2% of the population. But unlike the Scots the poor Manx don’t get special treatment from the BBC; even though they have to pay the TV licence. The government radio station on the island is semi-commercial.

              This is contrast to the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey who though outside the UK like the Isle of Man actually get BBC radio stations for their respective 92,000 and 62,000 population. Neither islands speaks a Gaelic, but both have English and French as official languages. Jersey has it own regional dialect based on French. And Guernsey has 3 French dialects (though one is extinct.)

              My closing thought is this. Just because they open a Taco Bell at the end of your street it doesn’t mean “they” forcing Spanish on to you. Indeed Spanish is made of several different dialects…. 🙂 😉

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  5. John Erickson

    X- Sorry, I didn’t mean to over-simplify things. Not only are there different dialects of Spanish, but the junior high my sister went to was teaching Spain Spanish (1975). When we moved to a different town, the high school taught “majority” Mexican Spanish, and neither bothered to preface their course names. Imagine her shock, and my parents’ anger, when she knew almost nothing despite two years’ of classes!
    Trust me, I know Taco Bell (the Mexican phone company, right? 😉 ) isn’t the flagship of Mexican or Central American influence. We lived not too far from a VERY tight enclave of recent Mexican immigrants, who had their own grocery store, with EVERYTHING in Spanish, including the signage on the building. A lot of people had no clue what the heck that gobbledy-gook was. Mind you, I had great fun with the folk who frequented the “Quicky mart” petrol station I worked at for a short spell. One lady drove about a dozen to a nearby factory, and was the only one who spoke English when they would stop in (at 2 am) on the way home. First time she came in, she lined her charges up at the register, and started translating what they all had, when I interrupted her, IN SPANISH, and explained I had her first lady already rung out and what the bill was. She just stared at me for a few moments, and then she told the group I spoke Spanish. Oops. I speak Spanish ONE AT A TIME!! I had 12 voices chattering away at me! Once we got that squared away, we did fine after that. And they LOVED me for it – no other sales staff they had run across, at our store or elsewhere, bothered to try to talk to them.
    And Lordie, where I live right now, a dark suntan gets you nasty looks! I can’t even imagine a black or Hispanic person even driving through here, much less staying to live! Hyper-redneck doesn’t do it justice! 😀

  6. ALBION is acting as a command platform. If we had a carrier there she would do this as well as supporting Harriers and variuos helicopters.

  7. James Daly

    OCEAN has never acted as a command platform – is this because she was very much built on the cheap without the communications fit or space for a staff? If so, I would argue in favour of retaining Illustrious long term, as at least she can do the command function as well.

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