SS3-Task-Force
The Joint UK-Oman Task Force supporting Exercise Saif Sareea 3. (Crown Copyright)

David Oliver – The Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship, the Landing Platform Dock (LPD) HMS Albion culminated a ten month Far East deployment by leading the UK Amphibious Task Group as part of the Exercise Saif Sareea 3 (SS3) in Oman waters which was the UK’s largest joint exercise since 2002.

Made up of Royal Navy and RFA ships as well as Royal Marines Lead Commando Group, the Task Group comprised more than 2,000 sailors and marines. In addition to HMS Albion the Task Force comprised the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon, mine-hunters HMS Blythe and HMS Ledbury and RFAs Lyme Bay and Cardington Bay. During the exercise it was joined by a 12-ship flotilla of Royal Oman Navy ships.

The Joint Staffs of Commander Amphibious Task Group (COMATG) and HQ 3 Commando Brigade were embarked on HMS Albion. Capable of launching and recovering up to 600 troops and up to 60 military vehicles including the Royal Marine’s Viking all-terrain vehicles using its four large landing craft, the LPD supported a series of day and night raids and assaults along the Omani coast between 24-27 October.

Commandos and Omani troops were supported by Boeing CH-47 Chinooks of No 27 Squadron Royal Air Force (RAF) which exercised its high amphibious role during SS3 with fast-roping and deck landings on HMS Albion. Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) NH Industries NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopters (TTH) honed their deck landing skills on HMS Albions flight deck while RFA Lyme Bays Leonardo AW159 Wildcat Lynx used the ship as a refuelling point.

On 3 November the UK amphibious forces staged a firepower demonstration at Bantoot after which a No 27 Squadron Chinook flew the Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, to HMS Albion to be greeted by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, before delivering a speech to the ships crew and Royal Marines thanking them for their vital role in conducting global security operations anywhere in the world.

by David Oliver