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Scientist joins Mediterranean mission to shape Navy of tomorrow

Scientist Natalie Anders launches a seabed-scanning device with a landing craft in the background
27 November 2020
A military scientist has spent three months with the UK’s amphibious task group to help shape the Royal Navy of tomorrow.

Normally found at HMS Collingwood in Fareham helping to shape the Navy’s ways of working on front-line operations, Natalie Anders sailed with UK Flagship HMS Albion on its autumn mission to the Mediterranean.

The Littoral Response Group deployment is intended to shape how the Royal Marines morph into the Future Commando Force, focusing on small, specialist raiders from the sea – exactly as the commandos were conceived 80 years ago.

Hand-in-hand with transforming the green berets comes transforming the way the Royal Navy conducts amphibious warfare, from planning and tactics through to the kit which supports the marines on their missions – all to meet the challenges of the conflicts of tomorrow.

The deployment reached its climax over a fortnight in and off Cyprus packed with trials, tests and experiments.

The Royal Marines made extensive use of tech – surveillance and supply drones – and new kit, such as two-man Can-Am ‘quad’ bikes, while Natalie joined divers on the Cypriot shore launching small robotic craft to map the topography of the seabed leading up to beaches.

She says that first-hand knowledge and experience has been crucial to the success of the task group’s three months away.

“The deployment has been important as it’s an invaluable opportunity to put into practice a lot of the conceptual work behind Navy Transformation,” Natalie explained.

“There’s no substitute for taking experimental tactics and equipment, putting them in the hands of our front-line personnel and discovering how it all performs in the real world.

“By putting experimentation front and centre the Royal Navy is demonstrating its commitment to ensuring it remains a top-tier naval power well into the 21st Century.”

Natalie works for the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and is currently assigned to the Navy’s Maritime Warfare Centre based at HMS Collingwood in Fareham where she’s an operational analyst studying Land and Littoral Strike.

It’s from the centre that the Navy cutting-edge tactical development and doctrine emerges.

She’s performed two key roles while deployed with the task group: scientific and analytical support; and planning and taking part in the experimental activity alongside sailors and Royal Marines, subsequently recording the results.

Her advice to task group commander Commodore Rob Pedre and his staff has not just focused on tech and tactics but also subjects as diverse as the Covid pandemic and command and control, drawing on her own expertise and her colleagues back in the UK.

“Life on board as a civilian is interesting. Being among experienced sailors and marines allows me to get a thorough understanding of the challenges they face and how best science, technology and doctrine can support what they do.

“Being a civilian and a scientist also means I have a different perspective which adds to the diversity of thought within the HQ and allows me to spot things that others may not.”

Albion is due home in Plymouth on December 7.

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