Royal Navy Littoral Response Group experimentation gets underway

Harry Lye 15 September 2020 (Last Updated September 15th, 2020 15:08)

Over 1,000 sailors and Royal Marines have sailed for a three-month deployment to the Mediterranean, Black Sea and North Africa to test the Future Commando Force (FCF) and Littoral Strike Group (LRG) concepts.

Royal Navy Littoral Response Group experimentation gets underway
HMS Albion. Image: Royal Navy/ Crown Copyright.

Named the Littoral Response Group (Experimentation) (LRGX) the deployment includes Marines from 40 Commando, 42 Commando, 30 Commando IX and 47 Commando as well as sailors from the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxillary.

The vessels involved in the deployment are Amphibious Assault Ship HMS Albion, Royal Fleet Auxilary Amphibious Landing Ship RFA Lyme Bay as well as Type 45 Destroyer HMS Dragon. The vessels on LRGX are being supported by Wildcat helicopters from 847 and 815 Naval Air Squadrons.

The LRGX deployment is set to provide high-readiness, forward-deployed crisis response capabilities as well as conducting ‘wide-ranging’ defence experimentation. In a video released by the Royal Navy, a number of systems including autonomous boats and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be seen.

In the video, an L3 Harris MAST-13 Autonomous Surface Vehicle can be seen exiting the well-deck of HMS Albion. Royal Marines can also be seen operating alongside a Qinetiq-made uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV).

Commander Littoral Strike Group Commodore Rob Pedre said: “This deployment will provide high-readiness, forward-deployed options, provide strategic reassurance to our allies and partners, deter malevolent actors, strengthen NATO, and conduct wide-ranging defence experimentation.

“We will test cutting-edge technology and innovative concepts such as the Future Commando Force and the Littoral Strike Force concept to ensure our war-fighting edge in an era of constant competition.”

The Future Commando Force is outfitted with advanced technology including UAS and new weapons, as part of a modernisation of how the Royal Marines operate. The Future Commando Force framework will see Royal Marines operate in smaller teams, leveraging technology to complete a more versatile mission set.

As part of this modernisation, the Royal Marines have already procured a new uniform from US-based Crye Precision. The new uniforms include a shoulder flash that is similar to designs worn by Royal Marines in WW2. The uniform also includes the White Ensign of the Royal Navy instead of a Union Flag.

The Autumn LRGX deployment is set to build on earlier cold weather trials conducted by the Royal Marines in Norway earlier this year. The trials in Norway saw 47 Commando work alongside NavyX testing uncrewed equipment in an operational setting for the first time.

During the trials, Royal Marines tested the Mast 13, Malloy Aeronautics heavy-lift UAS, Remus uncrewed sub-surface drone and Puma remotely-piloted air system (RPAS).

While on deployment the LRGX task group will support NATO’s Sea Guardian Mediterranean security operation and conduct exercises in Cyprus – Olympus Warrior and Autonomous Advance Force 3.

Olympus Warrior and Autonomous Advance Force 3 will test ‘cutting-edge kit’ and experiment with how it can be used to support Commando missions.

In the Black Sea, LRGX will conduct training exercises and port visits to ‘demonstrate the UK’s support for regional security and freedom of movement in Black Sea waters’.

Image: Royal Navy/ Crown Copyright.