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UK Flagship Arrives To Lead Exercise Involving Thousands Of Personnel

Thousands of British personnel will be involved in Exercise Saif Sareea alongside Omani forces.

The UK's flagship has arrived in Oman to begin a leading role in the largest combined military exercise for British forces for 16 years.

HMS Albion will lead the naval element of Exercise Saif Sareea, which translates to 'Swift Sword'.

More than 5,500 British personnel will be involved in the exercise alongside Omani forces.

Typhoon aircraft arrived this week in the country ahead of their involvement in Saif Sareea.

Assault ship HMS Albion is on the final leg of a nine-month deployment which began earlier this year.

Last month the Royal Navy defended Albion's entry into the South China Sea - a presence which was denounced as a “provocation” by Beijing.

Commodore James Parkin, Commander Amphibious Task Group said: "HMS Albion represents the very best of the British Armed Forces – able to deploy globally, crammed to the gunwales with modern weapons and sensors, and capable of putting a potent landing force of commandos from sea onto land, at a time and place of our choosing, without having to ask anyone else’s permission."

HMS Albion Oman
HMS Albion underwent a two-year period of extensive modernisation (Picture: Royal Navy).

The Plymouth-based warship is the hub of an Amphibious Task Group which will comprise destroyer HMS Dragon, minehunters HMS Blyth and Ledbury, plus command ship RFA Cardigan Bay, amphibious support vessel RFA Lyme Bay and military ferry MV Anvil Point.

Also involved will be Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade and numerous constituent parts from the elite amphibious infantry of 40 Commando.

Intelligence and information warfare experts of 30 Commando will also participate, joined by gunners of 29 Commando Royal Artillery, 24 Commando Royal Engineers and Commando Logistic Regiment, landing craft specialists of 539 Assault Squadron and the Dorset-based armour of the Viking Squadron.

HMS Albion Oman
Albion was one of two ships the Defence Secretary has pledged will not be sold or scrapped (Picture: Royal Navy).

Joining them on the ground will be British armour and infantry. And overhead there will be aerial support courtesy of the RAF, Army Air Corps and Fleet Air Arm such as Merlin, Chinook, Wildcat and Apache helicopters from Joint Helicopter Command, RAF Typhoon jets and E-3D Sentry aircraft and the hosts own F-16s.

Saif Sareea takes place around every 15 years, going back to the late 1980s and will test Britain’s new Joint Logistics Support Base at Duqm, a new port roughly half way between Oman’s capital Muscat and Salalah.

Following the exercise, some elements of the task group will remain in the Middle East to support activity with other nations, while others, including Albion, will return to Britain to prepare for the UK assuming the duty as NATO’s on-call Amphibious Task Force in January.

On Sunday, the Defence Secretary revealed he is protecting HMS Albion from the threat of being sold or scrapped.