A Tri-Service exercise designed to test the Anglo-French working partnership was completed last Friday after a fortnight of exercising on sea, land and air.
Eight warships from the Royal Navy and Marine Nationale took part – Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean, HMS Bulwark, HMS Sutherland, as well as RFA Lyme Bay and French frigates FS Cassard and La Motte-Picquet, helicopter carrier Dixmude and tanker Var.
Exercise Griffin Strike demonstrated how UK and French maritime, land and air forces can work together for a wide range of operations and, if called upon, unite as part of a NATO, EU or UN coalition.
From the Bristol Channel to the Solent, Griffin Strike featured Royal Marines from 3 Commando Brigade attacking via sea and air, working with aircraft from all three Armed Forces. Once ashore they linked up with UK and French land forces to continue the exercise on land.
Captain James Parkin, Commanding Officer of HMS Bulwark, said: “Griffin Strike is an excellent training opportunity and builds on our existing strong links with our French allies.
“Bulwark and Dixmude exercised together only last October and such close co-operation in realistic scenarios is hugely beneficial in maximising our respective military capabilities.”
As well as the warships, Griffin Strike featured 3,500 UK personnel, 2,000 French personnel, 11 UK aircraft – Wildcat from 847 Naval Air Squadron, Apache helicopters from the Army Air Corps and Chinook helicopters from 27 Squadron RAF – and ten French aircraft, including three maritime patrol Atlantique 2.
The aim of Griffin Strike was also to test the Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force. It is a key component of the commitment towards joint working made by both nations at the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement in 2010.
One of the key activities saw 3 Commando Brigade storming ashore into exercise areas in South Wales throughout the night. Arriving from HMS Bulwark, HMS Ocean and FS Dixmude they arrived by landing craft and helicopter which culminated in a clifftop assault by J Company of 42 Commando.
Standing Joint Force Commander Maj Gen Stuart Skeates said: “Exercise Griffin Strike marks a key milestone in the development of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, the embodiment of our military relationship with France.
“Together with Admiral Laurent Isnard, my French counterpart, we are anxious to demonstrate that our military partnership is now on a new level and show how the combined UK-France Combined Joint Task Force, in the most testing of circumstances, stands shoulder to shoulder.”
Griffin Strike culminated with a demonstration of firepower at the Salisbury Plain Training Area, where RAF Typhoons and French Rafale, as well as Apache helicopters, supported troops.
The two nations have an impressive record of working together during the past few years – working together for exercises Corsican Lion, Capable Eagle, Griffin Rise and Rochambeau – as well as the twice-yearly Joint Warrior off the coast of Scotland.