By Lucy Ashton
The River Clyde and its contiguous sea lochs, Gareloch and Long, are set to host elements of a major UK-led multinational exercise next week when Exercise Strike Warrior gets underway.
One of the largest military exercises of its kind in Europe, Strike Warrior 21 which incorporates Exercise Joint Warrior 21-1, will run from 8-20 May with a few of the participating vessels departing from ports on the West Coast od Scotland.
For this exercise, port visits will be kept to a minimum, however vessels are expected to arrive at HMNB Clyde, King George V Docks, Hunterston and Fairlie before joining the exercise.
Joint Warrior 21-1 is integrated with Exercise Strike Warrior 21 as part of the final preparations for the first deployment of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group (CSG) next month. HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship sits at the centre of the CSG which will deploy shortly after the completion of Strike Warrior.
Ten nations, (nine NATO and one non-NATO) will take part, bringing 31 warships, three submarines, 150 aircraft and approximately 13,400 military personnel including 1,500 ground troops to military ranges across the country and to maritime exercise areas off the North and West Coasts of Scotland.
The participating NATO nations will be the UK, USA, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland; Australia is the non-NATO participant.
Joint Warrior (which takes place twice a year, in the spring and autumn) and Strike Warrior are designed, planned and delivered by the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) based at Northwood in London, some of which will deploy to HM Naval Base Clyde to coordinate events during the Exercise.
Exercise activity will include:
- Thirty-four naval units from Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK and the USA participating around the Scottish Coast.
- Mine Counter measures operations in areas around Campbeltown and Loch Ewe.
- A total of 150 aircraft will take part in the exercise with some of them operating from RAF Lossiemouth, Prestwick Airport (previously HMS Gannet) and Stornoway Airport.
- Joint Firing Activity will take place at Cape Wrath Weapons Range, Garvie Island and the QinetiQ Hebrides range in the North of Scotland.
- Exercise activity in the North Minch to the west of Ullapool involving fast small boats, both civilian and military.
- GPS denial operations off the West coast of Scotland. The operations will be conducted at limited periods each day and the relevant authorities, especially maritime and aviation, have been involved in the planning process and relevant safeguards have been put in place.
Exercise Joint Warrior or Strike Warrior as it is known for this time only, is linked directly with the NATO Military Training Exercise Programme and brings together all three UK Armed Forces – the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air force – along with the other participating countries, to provide high quality training opportunities and improve joint operations between the UK and its allies.
Participants will practice a wide range of capabilities across land, sea and air in coordinated joint operations with other allied nations, with the Carrier Strike Group being a key element on this occasion prior to the deployment of the HMS Queen Elizabeth Task Group.
The scenario of the exercise will mirror a broad range of crisis and conflict situations which could realistically be experienced in real-world operations.
Over the fortnight, participants will be faced with a period of increasing political and military tensions, along with a huge range of realistic military tasks such as: intelligence gathering and reconnaissance; anti-smuggling and counter-terrorism operations; humanitarian assistance and evacuation operations.
All units involved in the exercise will observe Covid 19 control measures, such as a general requirement for 14-day quarantine periods before personnel can embark in the ships of the UK Carrier Strike Group. In addition, there will only be limited port visits by UK and allied units and then only for operational and logistical reasons.
Exercise planning staff have liaised with a wide variety of communities and organisations ahead of Strike Warrior in order to minimise the impact of military activity. Organisations consulted include: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA); National Air Traffic Services (NATS); The Highlands and Islands Airports Authority; Scottish and Northern Irish fishery organisations; and several environmental agencies and groups.
Further information on Exercise Strike Warrior, including notices to mariners and impact statements, can be found by visiting Queen’s Harbour Master Clyde’s page on the Royal Navy website: Joint Warriors and other exercises | Royal Navy (mod.uk)
HMS Queen Elizabeth during her recent visit to Glen Mallan on Loch Longside and (above) vessels and aircraft participating in a previous Joint Warrior exercise.