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Royal Navy's Merlin helicopters crew conducts exercises in Albania.

| Naval News Navy 2024

According to information published by the UK MoD on January 29, 2024, the Royal Navy Littoral Response Group (South), featuring Merlin helicopters, recently completed a productive four-day visit to Albania.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Royal Navy's Merlin helicopter. (Picture source: UK MoD)

The task group, including the aviation support ship RFA Argus and amphibious support ship RFA Lyme Bay, has been active since the previous autumn, primarily in the Eastern Mediterranean. Their mission has been focused on standby operations concerning the Israeli-Hamas conflict, with notable activities such as delivering aid to Gaza over the festive period.

Comprising approximately 160 Royal Marines from Alpha Strike Company 40 Commando and supported by three Merlin Mk4 helicopters from 845 Naval Air Squadron, the task group has demonstrated exceptional readiness and capability in the region. The group, which also includes 47 Commando (Raiding Group), has utilized RFA Argus and Lyme Bay as their primary bases for operations.

During their time in Albania, the task force engaged in extensive training with Albanian forces both during the day and at night. This included reconnaissance flights to scout potential locations for larger-scale joint exercises.

The UK forces have utilized Albania's unique terrain for training, particularly along the nation's coastline and old Cold War installations, which have proven to be valuable grounds for amphibious military exercises.

UK-Albania military relations

Joint military exercises have been a key aspect of this relationship. For instance, British and Albanian forces have participated in Exercise Joint Effort, aimed at enhancing mutual operational effectiveness.

This exercise involved about 150 UK personnel and was significant as it was the first major exercise in Albania following the announcement of Albania's contribution to the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) led by the UK. In addition to field exercises, there have been large-scale naval and amphibious exercises, such as the annual Black Eagle joint exercise.

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