More than 1,000 sailors and Royal Marines will take part in the three-month mission to provide “reassurance to allies and deter potential adversaries”. The military operation is the first to be led by the Littoral Response Group (LRG) task group after it replaced the long-standing Amphibious section. The Baltic region has been the sight of increased Russian aggression in the last few months, with Vladimir Putin ordering military exercises on land and sea.
The LRG will be joined by the UK flagship amphibious assault ship HMS Albion and landing dock RFA Mounts Bay.
The group will be bolstered by the Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster, also known as “The Queen’s Frigate”, Wildcat helicopters from 847 Naval Air Squadron, and Royal Marines from 45 and 30 Commando.
The Royal Navy will be deployed in the coming months to take part in US-led exercises in Norway.
They will also participate in NATO’s Baltops to mark the 50th anniversary of the premier maritime-focused training exercise for NATO Allies and Partners.
Exercises in the programme focus on air defence, anti-submarine warfare, maritime interdiction and mine countermeasure operations.
The move comes amid growing Russian aggression in the Black Sea – a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean.
Last month, the Russian military conducted drills and deployed thousands of troops amid growing tensions at the Ukraine border.
The Russian navy also practised a series of combative exercises in the Black Sea, which involved firing at surface and air targets.
Russia has regularly accused NATO of destabilising Europe by bolstering its troops around Baltic countries.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had claimed NATO was responsible for deploying 40,000 troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment near its borders, mainly in the Black Sea and the Baltic regions, something NATO denies.
The LRG was created as part of the Government’s Integrated Review into defence – dubbed the biggest overhaul of the Armed Forces since the cold war.
An extra £200 million was made available as part of the Royal Marines’ transformation into the Future Commando Force, which will see green berets deployed overseas more often in LRG’s.
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Captain Simon Kelly Royal Navy, task group commander and Commanding Officer of HMS Albion, said the shake-up will help to create a “more sophisticated, persistently engaged, and lethal commando force”.
He said: “The Littoral Response Group will be training alongside our NATO allies and regional partners on our deployment into the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea region this spring.
“With two major exercises, including the 50th anniversary of NATO’s Baltops, it is shaping up to be a busy deployment.
“We are excited to be part of the development and delivery of the vanguard Littoral Response Group, as announced in the recent Integrated Review, which will project a more sophisticated, persistently engaged, and lethal commando force.”
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AB Ben Tovey, 25, a newly-qualified Warfare Specialist on Albion, added: “I joined the Royal Navy a year ago wanting to have a job with more purpose.
“This deployment holds a lot of firsts for me, with HMS Albion being my first ship and my first time at sea; the ship already feels like an extended family.
“I’m excited to be part of the large international exercises and being involved with testing new weaponry and equipment.”