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'Thursday War': How Royal Navy Sailors Stay Operation Ready

The organisation that prepares the Navy for war is marking its 60th anniversary with a large scale 'Thursday War' off the coast of Plymouth....

The organisation that prepares the Navy for war is marking its 60th anniversary with a large scale 'Thursday War' off the coast of Plymouth. 

The Royal Navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training group (FOST) took a host of admirals to sea to celebrate the anniversary aboard a Dutch amphibious assault ship. 

Six warships, Rafale fighter jets and a fast inshore attack craft were present during the 'Thursday War' to mark its 60th anniversary.

It was an example of the organisation's capabilities at sea in case they were to come under attack.

Rear Admiral Will Warrender, FOST, said: 

"Thursday War is an opportunity - on a Thursday as the name would suggest - to test ships in a multi-threat environment.

"Testing them in surface, anti-surface and anti-air warfare.

"The difference with today is the number of visitors that we're able to get down here to Plymouth, to expose them to the fantastic sea training that we put their ships through from the various countries." 

FOST Anniversary onboard HNLMS Johan de Witt

In the tradition of FOST, the day began early off the coast of Plymouth.

The Admirals were visiting the Dutch amphibious assault ship HNLMS Johan de Witt as it underwent training - within an hour of their visit, the ship came 'under attack' - as part of the exercise.

This fast inshore attack craft serial is one of the new exercises in the programme and was designed for operations in the Gulf.  

The exercise focuses on dealing with the Iranian Gumboat threat - which has been a problem for ships in the Middle East for the last 20 years.

Foreign navies have for years paid to put their ships through the organisation's strict but respected programme.

HNLMS Johan de Witt is currently in its second phase of the programme.

Commodore Jan Hubert Hulsker, Commander Netherlands' Maritime Force said that they had been relying on the programme for the last 50 years.

Commodore Hulsker added:

"In the end, it's the standard that counts - to be ready for war and that's what you learn here."

FOST Anniversary onboard HNLMS Johan de Witt

Flag officer sea training not only prepares ships for war and humanitarian relief but also for their own emergencies like floods and fires.

Chief Petty Officer Dennis Carlin, Instructor of the FOST, said: "We train the way we mean to fight."

He added: "It helps them because in the real event they know what they're doing." 

They cover every base including mechanical failures and damage to the ship itself.

FOST started in the wake of World War Two when standards started to slip as sailors returned from war.

In the future, they are looking at training the crew of the Royal Navy's most advanced aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

FOST Anniversary onboard HNLMS Johan de Witt