Starring Role For HMS Albion In Exercise Saif Sareea 3

The Royal Marines' amphibious assault drills on the coast of southern Oman are all planned from HMS Albion.

HMS Albion is playing a central part in the British Armed Forces’ biggest war games in 15 years.

Exercise Saif Sareea 3 involves 5,500 personnel from all three armed services working alongside more than 60,000 members of the Omani military.

As part of the exercise, Royal Marines are practising on a daily basis amphibious assault drills on the coast of southern Oman.

All the assaults are being co-ordinated from the Royal Navy’s flagship, HMS Albion, and it is from the ship's Command Planning Room where each and every landing is meticulously planned.

HMS Albion's Command Planning Room 021118 CREDIT BFBS
All the planning for the Royal Marines' amphibious assaults take place from HMS Albion's Command Planning Room.

“This is working 24 hours, 48 hours prior,” Captain Hugo Grant, 3 Commando Brigade’s Planning Officer told Forces News.

“This is making the plan up here, testing it, adjusting it before we hand it over to the operations room downstairs who will actually execute [it].”

Even after darkness has fallen the work continues. Weighing 18,000 tonnes, HMS Albion is so large she is one of the few warships in the Royal Navy with a bridge large enough to play cricket on.

All of which means the ship’s crew are on standby 24 hours a day in case something happens.

“Tonight we’re doing a set of steering and breakdown drills,” explains Lieutenant Stephanie Buttery.

“Which are to increase redundancy if we were to lose steering in a war scenario or even just driving around.

"At the moment we’re off the coast of Oman and so there’s a lot of fishing nets and other sources of interference for our rudders.”

HMS Albion crew member on a nightshift 021118 CREDIT BFBS
A crew member surveys the horizon during his night shift.

Amphibious landings require a lot of equipment - to ensure that an effective troop of marines can be deployed ashore at the time and place of their choosing - and there is one bit of kit that’s vital to any assault:

“The landing craft utility is the heavy lift of the Royal Marines,” said Major James Smith of 30 Commando.

“This will get up to a hundred packs of a company’s strength of marines from ship to shore.

"It can also take up to three Viking armoured vehicles or, if we need to, one Challenger 2 main battle tank."

Helicopter lands on HMS Albion 021118 CREDIT BFBS
A helicopter prepares to land on HMS Albion.

Up on deck, the landing crew are also kept busy. The ship is acting as the main hub of the amphibious task group alongside six other vessels in the region.

That means a lot of air traffic and a big workload for the crew taking care of them.

“On this platform specifically we’re multi-role,” explains Naval Airman James Bird.

“So we’ll do lashings, refuelling but we also do gunnery serials so… all the guns on the back of this… we’ll man them at some point.

"The last sort of two, three weeks we’ve been really busy, we’ve had all sort of different aircraft on, from a Chinook to Wildcat... all sorts."

Welcome to HMS Albion sign 021118 Credit BFBS
The Royal Navy hopes the exercise will strengthen ties between the British and Omani militaries.

Captain Tim Neild, HMS Albion’s Commanding Officer said:

“The opportunity to work with key partners and allies throughout the world builds confidence and competence in the way we operate because we all learn from each other.

"We’ve really enjoyed working alongside our Omani colleagues.”