Photo of Angus Robertson

Angus Robertson (SNP Westminster Leader; Moray, Scottish National Party)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence

(1) what assets and how many personnel were involved in Exercise Cougar in each of the last five years;

(2) what the cost to the public purse was of Exercise Cougar in each of the last five years.

Photo of Andrew Robathan

Andrew Robathan (The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence; South Leicestershire, Conservative)

Cougar deployments are the annual forward deployment of core elements of Defence's Maritime Response Force Task Group (RFTG). The RFTG was established by the Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010, which set the requirement for the Navy to generate a Very High Readiness maritime contingent capability. Cougar deployments are directed through a Whitehall process by Defence to maintain the readiness of the RFTG and deliver Maritime Security and Defence Engagement. That engagement is delivered through exercises with allies and partners to build defence relationships and promote interoperability.

Cougar 2011 was planned for HMS Albion, HMS Ocean, HMS Sutherland, RFA Cardigan Bay, RFA Mounts Bay, RFA Fort Rosalie, RFA Wave Knight, elements of 40 Commando Royal Marines, 539 Assault Squadron RM, 845 Naval Air Squadron and support to take part in the deployment to the Middle East. This changed with the activation of Op Deference, Op Ellamy and Op Unified Protector in response to events in Libya; additional assets deployed as required supplementing the Cougar 2011 assets. The information requested about costs for Cougar 11 is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

For Cougar 2012 HMS Bulwark, HMS Illustrious, HMS Montrose, RFA Mounts Bay, HMS Dragon, elements of 45 Commando Royal Marines, 845, 854 and 814 Naval Air Squadrons and support deployed to the Mediterranean. Other assets joined Cougar 12 for short periods while en-route to their deployment tasking. The marginal cost for port visits and marine fuel cost for Cougar 12 was £4.2 million.

The total number of personnel involved changes constantly; detailed records are not maintained and the information requested for Cougar 11 and 12 could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The assets currently deployed on Cougar 2013 are HMS Bulwark, HMS Illustrious, RFA Fort Austin, RFA Mounts Bay, RFA Lyme Bay, RFA Fort Victoria, RoRo Hurst Point, elements of the Lead Royal Marine Commando Group, 43 Cdo Fleet Protection Group RM, Fleet Diving Group, and elements of Joint Helicopter Command (three Lynx Mk 7, three Sea King Mk4 and three Apache helicopter 64). Throughout the deployment it is planned that other assets will join Cougar 13 for short periods; for example, HMS Westminster and HMS Montrose sailed with Cougar en-route to their own operational tasking. As at 27 August 2013 there were approximately 2,700 personnel deployed as part of the Cougar 13 Task Group. The costs of this deployment are not yet available.

In addition to those personnel directly deployed on Cougar, the deployments are supported in the UK and around the world by civilian and military personnel in the Ministry of Defence, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other Government Departments.

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