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The UK Royal Navy‘s two warships, HMS Ocean and HMS Bulwark, have set sail to participate in the warm-up phase of Exercise Trident Juncture, reportedly the biggest Nato exercise in 20 years.

Being conducted in Italy, Portugal and Spain, the five-week exercise involves around 36,000 international troops, including 230 military units, 140 aircraft, and more than 60 ships.

Before sailing from Livorno, Italy, HMS Ocean embarked US Marines in preparation for their role in the ‘live’ phase of the exercise.

During the last month, the UK Maritime Battle Staff conducted a major ‘table top’ war game on Ocean and tested the communications to support the forthcoming training scenarios.

The vessel is armed with Wildcat helicopters from 847 Naval Air Squadron, Merlin Mk2 from 814 Naval Air Squadron and Chinooks from 27 Squadron RAF to support the exercise.

Commander Graeme Spence, 847 NAS commanding officer said: "The squadron has spent a good year converting to the Lynx helicopter’s successor, during which time we have tried to persuade the world that Wildcat is not a Lynx. This exercise will give the fliers a chance to prove this.

"We now have far more capacity to deal with information."

"We now have far more capacity to deal with information, to understand what is going on it means we’re more able to help the commandos with what’s happening on the ground, so they can make better informed decisions."

The latest exercise will test the Nato Response Force (NRF), demonstrating its readiness, flexibility and capability to respond to threats from any direction.

It will also test the functions of the high-readiness joint task-force before it becomes fully operational next year.

The UK is sending around 2,800 personnel, including an army brigade headquarters and battlegroup, three royal navy warships and aircraft, including Typhoon fighter jets and helicopters, to the drill.

Image: The UK’s Wildcat helicopters Merlin Mk2 and Chinooks have been rehearsing the drills to support the Nato’s Exercise Trident Juncture. Photo: courtesy of Royal Navy.