March 12, 2020 – HMS Albion has been testing her versatility in the harsh Arctic environment of northern Norway’s fjords.
The Royal Navy’s flagship is currently off the Norwegian coastline, deep inside the Arctic Circle, and has carried commandos, their specialist vehicles and equipment ahead of amphibious landings as part of demanding winter exercises.
She has embarked Royal Marines conducting shore raids, loaded Vikings onto her vehicle deck and invited trial teams on board to test the latest drone technology as part of Future Commando Force experimentation.
After a brief stop in Stavanger, where she gathered with Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland, survey ship HMS Echo, and Dutch ship HNLMS Johan de Witt, HMS Albion sailed north where temperatures can reach -30C.
In the freezing conditions, the amphibious transport warship embarked Royal Marines of 45 Commando to undertake wader training – drills that ensure forces can move from the ship to shore rapidly using landing craft or helicopters.
Her expansive loading dock means she can take on board a variety of vehicles and equipment needed by commandos to operate in the region.
While conducting the wader exercises, HMS Albion welcomed on board Brigadier Matt Jackson, Commander of 3 Commando Brigade, for discussions on the ship’s capability.
Commodore Ad van de Sande, Commander Netherlands Maritime Force, was also invited to meet the ship’s company. Dutch amphibious warfare ship HNLMS Johan de Witt is in the region working alongside Albion and UK forces as part of a combined task group.
In a first for the ship and the Royal Navy, unmanned boat Mast 13 was controlled from an artificial intelligence system integrated in Albion.
The Autonomous Advance Force trials, run by 47 Commando, NavyX and the Office for the Chief Technology Officer, saw the boat operate from the ship’s dock in groundbreaking trials.
Commanding Officer of HMS Albion, Captain Peter Laughton, said: “Working in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Circle will be a huge ,challenge for the ship’s company, however the successful completion of the wader package has demonstrated we are extremely well prepared to ensure we can meet any tasking.
“The success of Autonomous Advance Force once again demonstrates the utility of the landing platform deck as an extremely capable platform.”
HMS Albion continues to conduct training exercises in Norway following the cancellation of Exercise Cold Response due to Covid-19. The Norwegian armed forces announced a controlled closure of the exercise is to take place.
Royal Navy and Royal Marines forces will continue with scaled-down training activities.