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Clyde Naval Base plays its part in training future UK top guns

10 August 2017
While the next generation of UK Top Guns were in training with USS George HW Bush off the coast of Scotland, capturing the imagination and the picture opportunities, back at HM Naval Base Clyde a vital part of the operation slipped beneath the radar.

As Home of the UK Submarine Service, the Clyde Base is used to working away from the glare of public attention.  After all, the 6,800-strong workforce’s main focus is maintaining the country’s ultra-secret Nuclear Deterrent and keeping the nation’s fleet of attack submarines ready for operations around the globe. 

But for two weeks a core team of 20 Royal Navy, Army and Air force personnel in the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) were joined by 60 personnel from the UK and US, both regular and reserve.  Formed as the Exercise control staff, they used the Scottish Naval Base as their headquarters, coordinating the high-profile joint US/UK Exercise Saxon Warrior from Faslane’s Maritime Operations Centre. 

The exercise staff provided challenges for the ships and staffs at sea together with scenarios to overcome.  These ranged from defeating enemy forces in the air, on land, and on and under the sea, to rescuing downed airmen, and ensuring the freedom of merchant and pleasure craft to use the seas. 

Exercise Director, Captain Andrew Stacey, RN, Captain JTEPs said: “Exercise Saxon Warrior is an incredibly important and exciting step in the regeneration of the UK’s Carrier Strike capability. For my team, Saxon Warrior represents the culmination of a long planning process and also marks the first step in a busy future of UK Carrier Strike Group training.”  

With a Task group of seven US, Norwegian, and British ships, a US and Royal Navy submarine, and the Carrier Air Wing of over 90 aircraft and nearly 10,000 people, supplying the Carrier Group during the exercise was a major challenge.

Exercise Saxon Warrior is an incredibly important and exciting step in the regeneration of the UK’s Carrier Strike capability.

Captain Andrew Stacey

Faslane Naval Base provided the support needed to achieve all this, ranging from facilities for large briefings ahead of the exercise, accommodation and messing for exercise control staff and an Operations Room from where the exercise was controlled. 

Over a period of four days hundreds of tons of stores and fuel were transported to remote Scottish locations to supply the Carrier Group.  Dozens of trucks brought equipment as far away as Sigonella in Italy, all of it coordinated by JTEPS personnel at HM Naval Base Clyde.

“This has been a fantastic opportunity for our Royal Navy and Maritime Reservists to work with our US counterparts,” said Lieutenant Alex Meaden, a JTEPS logistics officer.

“We’ve been impressed with the scale of the US logistics chain and we’ve learned a lot from them which will help us to prepare for HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier logistics operations.”

Exercise activity was centred around the scenario of a conflict between neighbouring countries – one supported by a multinational naval force and Carrier Strike Group, the other by frigates, destroyers, submarines and land-based aircraft.   Supporting aircraft also simulated air raids with 29 Commando and Swedish tactical air controllers providing forward observation to ships and aircraft dropping ordnance on Cape Wrath in the far north of Scotland. 

The aim was to help train Commander UK Carrier Strike Group (COMUKCSG) battle staff ahead of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s arrival in Portsmouth later this year.  

Commander Simon Chapman, who is the Maritime Exercise Controller for Saxon Warrior and was at HM Naval Base Clyde for the duration of the exercise said:

“Exercise Saxon Warrior has been hugely beneficial to us in achieving the ability to effectively train a UK strike group.  The most challenging aspect has been integrating the scale of activity involved into a congested, relatively small exercise area,”

“As a full time member of JTEPS I have visited Faslane many times to take part in Exercise Joint Warrior and we are always made to feel  very welcome. I would like to thank all of the HMS Neptune Mess staff who have been extremely helpful  and friendly and have provided us with first class accommodation  and some great food throughout our stay.”

“We were very glad to welcome the participants and exercise staff from Saxon Warrior to Scotland.  As Scotland’s only naval base, Clyde is playing an increasingly important part in Royal Navy activity and has very much become the base of choice for our allies and partner nations,”  said Rear Admiral John Weale, Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Scottish waters provide unique training opportunities and we should all feel proud of the part we are playing in our collective security and in preparing the UK’s carrier strike group for future operations.”

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