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Royal Marines stay sharp on commando training missions during Carrier Strike Group deployment

18 June 2021
Royal Marines have been perfecting specialist boarding skills and practised saving downed aircrew as they operate at the heart of the UK Carrier Strike Group.

Submarines, frigates, destroyers and aircraft are the more prominent members of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s list of protectors – the ring of steel around the aircraft carrier, capable of preventing attacks above, below and on the waves with an array of cutting-edge weapons and equipment. 

But often unsighted – by choice mainly – are the small teams of Royal Marines of 42 Commando who are dotted around the UK Carrier Strike Group’s ships, providing the task force with the ability to intercept drugs smugglers, pirates and terrorists (known as Maritime Interdiction Operations) on their long mission to the Indo-Pacific and back.

Not only that, but the commandos are trained in recovering aviators isolated behind enemy lines (known as Joint Personnel Recovery), with the principle focus being on bringing F-35B pilots who have ejected from their aircraft back to safety.

One of the boarding teams – from Lima Company of Plymouth-based 42 Commando – is deployed on HMS Kent, as the Type 23 frigate operates close to the carrier but also peels off on her own missions, which currently has her working with NATO’s Standing Maritime Task Group 2 in the Mediterranean Sea.

For the commandos on board, there have been ample opportunities to stay sharp for potential missions and hone some of their specialist skills set as boarding operators, but also work closely with NATO allies.

The highlight of which was a boarding exercise with French and Spanish vessels, which saw Royal Marines and Spanish counterparts board a French oil tanker – which played the role of a vessel transporting illegal cargo and personnel. 

“The size and complexity of the vessel made for an excellent training serial in which all members of the team performed to a high professional standard,” Lieutenant J Weaver of Lima Company. 

“Not only were the Royal Marines Boarding Team involved in this training, a Maritime Sniper Team ‘intercepted’ the vessel and provided the boarding team with constant overwatch (from a Wildcat helicopter) as they ‘cleared’ the French Tanker and its crew.

“The vessel was seized and all members of the crew secured by the Royal Marines Boarding team, with an in-depth search and exploitation conducted by the Royal Navy Boarding team from HMS Kent. 

“This was a great opportunity for the team to gain a greater understanding of how other nations conduct boarding operations, share our tactics, techniques, and procedures with other forces, whilst enhancing our own capability.”


The training scenario progressed to HMS Kent, with the boarding team tasked to fast rope 30ft onto the deck of the frigate in order to secure the ship, clearing through its narrow and confined spaces.

“In addition to fast roping, the team then sharpened its close quarter marksmanship skills with a live fire shoot from the back of HMS Kent,” added Lt Weaver.
“The shoot tested the team’s reactions in close quarters and their transitional drills between primary and secondary weapon systems.”

During Kent’s stop in Alicante, Spain, the commandos – on top of some adventurous training – laid on a showcase to the UK ambassador to Spain and other guests.

“The demonstrations were a huge success, with members of the team displaying the specific skillsets which a Royal Marine Boarding Team can provide to the Royal Navy and wider defence,” said Lt Weaver.

“Stances including Close Quarter Battle, Method of Entry and Low and High Vertical Access gave an insight into how boarding operations take place and the training required to take someone from a Royal Marines Commando to a Boarding Operator at 42 Commando.”

The team tasked with Joint Personnel Recovery are trained to integrate seamlessly with any ship in the Carrier Strike Group, so they can work quickly if they were called on to head behind enemy lines and recover an isolated pilot.

These commandos are ready to deploy at short notice, day or night and in any conditions, should the need arise. 

To make sure they are sharp for their potential missions, the team have carried out mock rescues – dropping in via helicopters to save an isolated person from an urban environment and conducting a covert rescue while under pressure from a ‘rapidly advancing adversary’ during Exercise Strike Warrior in Scotland.


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