Nonsense! The 'Silent Service' has managed perfectly well without stooping to vulgar PR and continually harking back to the pivotal significance of the Battle of the Atlantic (Sep '39 to May '45) for Britain's survival during WWII. However, we should never forget the grievous losses of civilian Merchant Navy personnel throughout that five-and-a-half year period. Even the survivors were struck off their companies' books the minute they lost their ship and possessions.
Is this response task group thing a new idea then?
Makes some sense to me, instead of having your high value resources on singleton patrols you group them, train together for maximum effect and concentrate your support resources. It should of course be supplemented with forward basing of more appropriate vessels but not sure why the RN hasn't done this sooner, or should I say returned to the idea sooner, given its actually how they used to do business decades ago
The RN has a point in that, by getting rid of the actual Fleet and thus reducing the options available to deal with "unforeseen global events" down to near zero, the service will - statistically at least - be more certain in choosing the right option for action....
No disagreement with what you say. While RFTG is a new initiative, COUGAR 11 is only the latest in a long, occasionally interrupted series of annual RN deployments aimed at developing, honing and maintaining unit, joint-force and combined-force operational capability in a variety of multi-threat environments and geo-climatic conditions. Other recent examples have included:
Such training opportunities are extremely precious as new threats develop, tactics and procedures are modified, different vessels are introduced into service and individuals go to sea for the first time, rotate between ships with different systems or assume more responsible and wider reaching roles in ships' organisations as they climb the promotion ladder. Changes in the myriad systems and equipment found on board any warship, and 'the team' that operates and maintains them, happen with frightening scale and regularity so one can never afford to be complacent. From weapons and sensors (including helos which are integral parts of a ship's weapons system) to washing machines, there are often only one or two 'deep specialist' operator/maintainers on board for each particularly complex electronic device or piece of machinery. The need to train up reliefs and keep them at the top of their game in a realistic scenario is ever present.
During such exercises (although COUGAR is classed as an operation), all elements of the task group (including the RMs) and others with whom they engage are given the chance to improve interoperability while settling into a widespread battle rhythm. This cannot be duplicated in simulation or single-ship drills at sea or alongside. Every discipline is thoroughly tested including such mundane but critical tasks as logs and admin while floating far from base. There are also rare opportunities to iron out such parlous issues as communications links with non-NATO nations and IFF while collecting valid data for real time and retrospective operational analysis and tactical development.
Apart from the RFTG aspects, such deployments not only support defence diplomacy by 'showing the flag' but also offer sailors the traditional opportunity to see the world and have some fun to break the monotony of being cooped up in a tin box for several months at a time (at least they did in the old days).
One glaring shortfall. This is the first occasion such a group has lacked a fixed wing capable platform. Even since the premature demise of SHAR, temporarily embarked USMC Harrier AV-8Bs and Naval Strike Wing GR9s have provided a modicum of outer layer surveillance, AD and ASu in the past as well as a manned strike capability with longer reach than a Lynx with Sea Skua.