Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime)

Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) (or JEF (M)) (formerly Response Force Task Group (RFTG)), is the Royal Navy's expeditionary task force maintained at high-readiness and available at short notice to respond to unexpected global events.[1] In addition to the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines, the RFTG also includes elements of the British Army and the Royal Air Force. While it is primarily poised to conduct war-fighting or amphibious operations, the JEF (M) is capable of undertaking a diverse range of activities such as evacuation operations, disaster relief or humanitarian aid.[2]

Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime)
HMS Albion (the then Fleet Flagship), RFA Fort Rosalie and HMS Ocean of the RFTG conducting replenishment at sea during Cougar 11
CountryUnited Kingdom
BranchRoyal Navy
RoleExpeditionary & Direct Fleet Operations
Part ofUnited Kingdom Task Group
Garrison/HQStonehouse Barracks, Plymouth
EngagementsOperation Ellamy 2011
Cdre James Parkin

The JEF (M) (formerly RFTG) was established under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. Since its establishment, the JEF (M) has seen six successive years of deployments to the Mediterranean Sea and East of Suez to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The JEF (M) also deployed on operations during the 2011 Libyan Civil War and provided humanitarian aid during Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

The RFTG is now known as the Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) (JEF (M)).[3][4][5]

Command structure

JEF (M) is directly commanded at sea by Commander Amphibious Task Group (COMATG), typically an officer the rank of Commodore. COMATG reports to Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces (COMUKMARFOR) who is responsible for directing "UK, Allied or Coalition maritime forces anywhere in the world".[6]

Commander UK Task Group has been as follows:

From March 2015 the title changed from COMUKTG to Commander Amphibious Task Group (COMATG).[9] COMATG was re-titled as Commander Littoral Strike Group (COMLSG) on 1 October 2019.[11]


The "scaleable nature of the Response Force Task Group" means the Royal Navy assigns a wide range of relatively significant assets to the force, with its composition changing depending on the scenario and the range of ships available.[12]

Operational history

Cougar 11 deployment

In April 2011, the Response Force Task Group deployed for the first time since its announced establishment in October 2010. The deployment was "designed to demonstrate the versatile capabilities and high readiness" of the Response Force Task Group and engage with foreign allies in the Mediterranean Sea and East of Suez.[13] On 9 May (en route to Cyprus), 7 Senior NCOs and the Officer Commanding the Support Troop from 6 Assault Squadron Royal Marines held a service of remembrance at the Souda Bay Commonwealth Grave site in Crete to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bitter battle for the island.[14] Cougar 11 saw, for the first time, British Army AgustaWestland Apache attack helicopters operating from the decks of a Royal Navy warship, HMS Ocean.[15]

During the deployment the RFTG was involved in several multinational exercises: The first was 'Cypriot Lion' which included Royal Marines from 40 Commando, elements of 3 Commando Brigade HQ and a detachment from the Netherlands Marine Corps. The second major exercise was code-named 'Albanian Lion', a joint UK-Albanian military exercise and the first joint operation between the UK and the Albanian Armed Forces since Albania joined NATO in 2009.[16] The third major exercise was code-named 'Operation Red Alligator', described as a "major maritime security and anti-piracy exercise", it took place in the Persian Gulf with the Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia.[17]

With the ongoing Civil War in Libya, on the 3 June 2011, five ships of the Response Force Task Group were temporarily detached and deployed off the Libyan coast as part of Operation Ellamy.[18] Ocean launched repeated Apache gunships strikes from her flight deck and worked alongside the French amphibious assault ship Tonnerre (L9014), which deployed her own Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters.[19] HMS Triumph (S93) (a nuclear-powered fleet submarine) fired her Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles at Libyan air defence and command and control centres. Analysts believe that in total more than 15 cruise missiles were fired by the submarine during the operations.[20]

Cougar 11 composition:[21]

Ships UK Air Elements UK Land Elements Foreign Units
HMS Albion (L14) (Flagship)815 Naval Air Squadron (Lynx)3 Commando Brigade HQ
HMS Ocean (L12)845 Naval Air Squadron (Sea King)40 Commando
HMS Liverpool (D92)847 Naval Air Squadron (Sea King)Royal Marines Armoured Support Group
HMS Sutherland (F81)857 Naval Air Squadron (Sea King)539 Assault Squadron RM
HMS Triumph (S93)No. 656 Squadron AAC (Apache)
RFA Argus (A135)
RFA Mounts Bay (L3008)
RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009)
RFA Fort Victoria (A387)
RFA Fort Rosalie (A385)
RFA Wave Knight (A389)

Cougar 12 deployment

Cougar 12 saw Response Force Task Group deploy six ships and more than 3,000 marines and sailors to the Mediterranean in early October 2012. One of the principle purposes of the deployment was to conduct large-scale amphibious exercises with participating allies. Key exercises included: 'Corsican Lion' with France; 'Albanian Lion' with Albania; a visit to Malta and exercises with the United States Navy and the Algerian Armed Forces.[22]

Commander UK Task Group, Commodore Paddy McAlpine said: "Cougar 12 provides us with a superb opportunity to rekindle our amphibious capability after a prolonged period when our focus has been on operations elsewhere."[22] Exercise 'Corsican Lion' was the main focus of Cougar 12 and was designed to towards developing the maritime and amphibious components of the Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF). The exercise involved the Response Force Task Group working directly alongside the French Navy's Task Force 473 and the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91).[23]

Head of the RFTG's amphibious operations, Brigadier Martin Smith of 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, was quoted saying: "It is an incredibly versatile force and our burgeoning interoperability with the French further proves this. The quality of Royal Marines Commandos and French Marines delivers a highly effective first response capability which is optimised for early entry operations."[23]

Cougar 12 composition:[22]

Task Force Ships UK Air Elements UK Land Elements Foreign Units
HMS Bulwark (L15) (Flagship)814 Naval Air Squadron (Merlin)3 Commando Brigade HQ
HMS Illustrious (R06)815 Naval Air Squadron (Lynx)45 Commando
HMS Northumberland (F238)829 Naval Air Squadron (Merlin)30 Commando Information Exploitation Group
HMS Montrose (F236)845 Naval Air Squadron (Sea King)539 Assault Squadron RM
RFA Mounts Bay (L3008)846 Naval Air Squadron (Sea King)17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC
MV Hartland Point854 Naval Air Squadron (Sea King)
No. 656 Squadron AAC (Apache)
No. 659 Squadron AAC (Lynx)

Cougar 13 deployment

Cougar 13 deployed during the early autumn of 2013. In the Mediterranean, Response Force Task Group held exercises with the Portuguese Marine Corps and once again conducted exercise 'Albanian Lion' with the Albanian Armed Forces.[24] Anti-surface exercises were also held with the Hellenic Navy and anti-submarine drills with the Italian Navy.[25][26]

During mid September 2013, Response Force Task Group deployed East of Suez for the second phase of the Cougar 13 deployment where it linked up with the Royal Saudi Navy for exercise 'Red Alligator'.[27] While East of Suez, a Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey from the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) landed on Illustrious in a joint exercise with the United States Navy. Likewise, Illustrious's Army Air Corps Westland Lynx and Westland Sea Kings dropped in on the Kearsarge, carrying a few passengers to get a brief insight into the America LHD.[28] In the Gulf of Oman, Response Force Task Group conducted anti-submarine drills against the USS Dallas (SSN-700).[29] HMS Quorn (M41) briefly met up with the RFTG for exercise 'Sea Khanjar'.[30] Exercise 'Sea Khanjar' was observed by Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Philip Jones, Commandant General Royal Marines Major General Ed Davis, Lieutenant General Mike Hindmarsh and Commander United Arab Emirates Presidential Guard Marines, Colonel A Al-Tenaji.[31]

When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013, HMS Illustrious was ordered to detach from the Response Force Task Group and assist in the disaster relief efforts.[32] The mission was known as Operation Patwin, HMS Daring (D32) was already in the Far East when the tragedy struck and was swiftly able to provide humanitarian aid.[33]

Cougar 13 composition:[34][35][36]

Task Force Ships UK Air Elements UK Land Elements Foreign Units
HMS Bulwark (L15) (Flagship)(Fleet Air Arm)3 Commando Brigade HQFS Somme (A631)
HMS Illustrious (R06)(Royal Air Force)42 Commando
HMS Montrose (F236)(Army Air Corps)Royal Marines Armoured Support Group
HMS Westminster (F237)30 Commando Information Exploitation Group
RFA Lyme Bay (L3007)Commando Logistics Regiment
RFA Mounts Bay (L3008)29th Commando Regiment Royal Artillery
RFA Diligence (A132)24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers
RFA Fort Austin (A386)17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC
RFA Fort Victoria (A387)
MV Hurst Point

Cougar 14 deployment

The RFTG departed on Cougar 14 during early September 2014 for a four-month deployment scheduled to conduct exercises and engage with foreign navies in the Mediterranean and East of Suez in the (Persian) Gulf and Indian Ocean.[8] Notable international warships that took the opportunity to rendezvous and participate with Cougar 14 are the USS Makin Island (LHD-8), the USS San Diego (LPD-22) and the French ships Courbet (F 712) and Dixmude (L9015).[37][38]

The first phase of Cougar 14 was exercise Albanian Lion 2014, followed by exercise Dragon Hammer 2014, concluding by 17 October 2014.[39] Several ships also broke off to participate in the middle-eastern IMCMEX exercise. Once completed, they regrouped with the Cougar 14 Task Group for further exercises in the region.[40][41]

During December 2014 on the return journey to Britain, Bulwark and Lyme Bay conducted exercise Sea Snake, where Royal Marines from 40 Commando and 4 Assault Squadron 'stormed' the beaches of Gibraltar during amphibious landings.[42]

Cougar 14 composition:[8][43]

Task Force Ships UK Air Elements UK Land Elements Foreign Units
HMS Bulwark (L15) (Flagship)(Fleet Air Arm)3 Commando Brigade HQSchleswig-Holstein (F216)
HMS Ocean (L12)(Royal Air Force)40 Commando
HMS Northumberland (F238)(Army Air Corps)
RFA Lyme Bay (L3007)
RFA Fort Austin (A386)
RFA Wave Ruler (A390)

Cougar 15 deployment

Cougar 15 took place alongside the larger NATO wide exercise Trident Juncture 15. Trident Juncture is a key exercise for the Royal Navy, as the country will take command of NATO's Very High Readiness Task Force in 2016. Trident Juncture 15 consisted of over 36,000 personnel and 70 warships from several NATO and allied nations. The exercise saw both the COMUKMARFOR Rear Admiral Radkin and COMUKTG Commodore Connell deploy on HMS Ocean and HMS Bulwark respectively.[44] Bulwark deployed with almost 100 extra Royal Marines from across 3 Commando Brigade, and over 100 specialist personnel required to command the Task Group and its activities.[45]

One of the first exercises during Cougar 15 was Corsica Lion, where Bulwark, Ocean, MV Hartland Point and the French Navy's Dixmude practised rescuing "civilians" off the northern coast of Corsica.[46] The RFTG also exercised with Standing NATO Maritime Group 2.[47] As part of Cougar 15, United States Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys flew off Ocean during Exercise Blue Raptor, transporting Royal Marines from ship to shore. This exercised ended around 24 November 2015.[48][49] Bulwark temporarily remained in Malta along with HMS Somerset (F82) to provide security for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015.[50] This security arrangement ended with Queen Elizabeth II visiting Bulwark and the ship returned to its home port on 7 December 2015.[51][52]

Cougar 15 composition:[53]

Task Force Ships UK Air Elements UK Land Elements Foreign Units
HMS Ocean (L12) (Flagship)814 Naval Air Squadron (Merlin)3 Commando Brigade HQFS Dixmude
HMS Bulwark (L15)847 Naval Air Squadron (Wildcat)45 Commando
MV Hartland PointNo. 656 Squadron AAC (Apache)
No. 27 Squadron RAF (Chinook)

Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) 16

In September 2016, HMS Ocean, along with helicopters from 845 Naval Air Squadron, No. 662 Squadron AAC and No. 27 Squadron RAF, HMS Bulwark, and element of 3 Commando Brigade HQ Royal Marines, RFA Mounts Bay and MV Eddystone Point, deployed on the Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) 2016. The JEF (M) would sail to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, where Commander Amphibious Task Group Commodore Andrew Burns would assume command of the United States Fifth Fleet Task Force 50 until March 2017.[51][54]

JEF (M) 16 composition:

Task Force Ships UK Air Elements UK Land Elements Foreign Units
HMS Ocean (L12) (Flagship)845 Naval Air Squadron (Merlin)3 Commando Brigade HQ
HMS Bulwark (L15)No. 662 Squadron AAC (Apache)
RFA Mounts Bay (L3008)No. 27 Squadron RAF (Chinook)
MV Eddystone

See also


  1. The Response Force Task Group (RFTG) – The UK's Very High Readiness Maritime Force, Royal Navy (PDF), Retrieved 3 June 2014
  2. Royal Navy ready for unforeseen global events,, 9 May 2011
  3. HMS Bulwark prepares for major deployment,, 15 September 2016
  4. "Royal Marines under the wing of Ospreys on joint exercises in the Mediterranean". Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  5. "UK Royal Navy elements conduct amphibious landings training". Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  6. Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces (archive),, Retrieved 3 June 2014
  7. Royal Navy sails for annual ‘Cougar’ deployment,, 9 August 2013
  8. Royal Navy Task Force departs on Cougar 14,, 1 September 2014
  9. "Navy News – Reporting from the Fleet". Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  10. "COMMODORE ANDREW BURNS OBE ROYAL NAVY" (PDF). Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  11. Rosamond, Jon (11 September 2019). "DSEI: Royal Marines Embrace Littoral Strike and Prepare to Forward Deploy". USNI News. London. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  12. The Response Force Task Group, Royal Navy Fact Sheet, 2011
  13. Royal Navy Cougar 11 Force begins exercises off Cyprus,, 13 May 2011
  14. Task Group Link Up For Exercise In Cyprus,
  15. Army's Apache fires first Hellfire missiles at sea,, 13 May 2011
  16. Precise Media Planner, Joint UK-Albanian military exercise 'Albanian Lion' begins, Precise Media Planner, May 26, 2011
  17. Cougar task group sharpens its teeth in Saudi Arabia,
  18. Task Force Sent To Libya To Ratchet Up The Pressure On Gaddafi, Archived March 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  19. "NATO Uses Attack Helicopters for First Time in Libya". Fox News. 4 June 2011.
  20. "No end in sight as RAF marks 100 days over Libya". BBC News. 4 October 2011.
  21. Global Operations COUGAR,
  22. Naval force gears up for Cougar 12,, 27 September 2012
  23. Royal Marines face French counterparts in Exercise Corsican Lion,, 23 October 2012
  24. HMS Bulwark Portuguese Marines,
  25. Warship practises hunter-killer scenario with Greek navy,, 29 August 2013
  26. HMS Westminster practises submarine hunting skills,, 3 September 2013
  27. Cougar wrestles with Alligator as task group exercises with Saudis,, 18 September 2013
  28. ‘A little bit special’ – unique US aircraft lands on Illustrious,, 19 September 2013
  29. HMS Westminster in hunt for USS Dallas,, 3 October 2013
  30. HMS Quorn guides task group safely through troubled waters,, 10 October 2013
  31. The RFTG completes Exercise Sea Khanjar in UAE,, 15 October 2013
  32. British carrier HMS Illustrious to aid typhoon victims,, 14 November 2013
  33. Operation Patwin,, Retrieved 2014
  34. Royal Navy sails for annual ‘Cougar’ deployment,, 09/08/2013
  35. Royal Navy set for Cougar 13,, 8 August 2013
  36. Supply meets demand on Cougar 13,, 30 August 2013
  37. Bulwark tries out Osprey,, 22 October 2014
  38. Sea King a French Connection,, 22 October 2014
  39. "Albanian Lion 2014" exercise opening ceremony conducted,, 8 September 2014
  40. HMS Bulwark leads ten-ship task group on Gulf exercise,, 7 November 2014
  41. Core of Royal Navy's Middle East presence joins massive international minehunting exercise,, 6 November 2014
  42. Royal Marines storm beach as part of Exercise Sea Snake,, 10 December 2014
  43. German frigate visits London,, 24 January 2014
  44. NATO warships gather for "class" photo,, 30/10/2015
  45. Bulwark feeds’ The Christmas Pudding,, 25/11/2015
  46. Corsican evacuation tests Anglo-French Task Group,, 16/10/2015
  47. Standing NATO Maritime Group TWO exercises with British Task Group COUGAR following Barcelona port visit,, 16/10/2015
  48. New addition to HMS Ocean's flightdeck,, 13/11/2015
  49. Partner nations storm the Corsican beaches,, 24/11/2015
  50. UK military supports Maltese security operation for 2015 Commonwealth meeting,, 227 November 2015
  51. "A Royal send off in Malta – Royal Navy". Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  52. "HMS Bulwark returns to Plymouth – Royal Navy". Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  53. RAF ODIHAM – Cougar 15,, 13 October 2015
  54. "HMS Ocean deploys on joint expeditionary force". Royal Navy. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
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