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Massive U.K. Task Force sailed for Persian Gulf exercises week before WTC attack

Largest deployment since the Falklands War

g and compass

U.K. Ministry of Defense

HMS Illustrious leads carrier task group as final preparations are made for Saif Sareea II

Published Tuesday, 04 September 2001

HMS Illustrious departs 
Portsmouth on 3 September
to lead the Argonaut deployment

A Dutch nurse from 400 Hospital
Company, deploying with the
British Army's 22 Field Hospital
 on Saif Sareea II
(Click here for hi-res version)

British engineers at work
constructing a huge camp in
the desert
(Click here for hi-res version)

120 Pioneer Squadron erect a
large tented encampment
(Click here for hi-res version

The aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, with Fleet Air Arm Sea Harriers and RAF Harriers embarked, led to sea on 3 September a task group to join Argonaut 01, the Royal Navy's largest deployment since the Falklands. Meanwhile, the final preparations were being made in Oman for the start of Saif Sareea II, a major UK-Omani exercise which starts on 15 September.

Illustrious will serve as the flagship for Argonaut 01, which sees 24 ships and two submarines of the Royal Navy deploy to the Mediterranean and the Gulf, where they will participate in Saif Sareea II. Two other Argonaut task groups have already sailed; a squadron of mine countermeasures vessels left on 14 August, followed by the amphibious task group centred on the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean and the assault ship HMS Fearless, carrying Royal Marines and soldiers of 3 Commando Brigade. The RFA Fort Austin accompanying the amphibious force conducted a major rescue operation in the Mediterranean on 2 September.

In Oman, Omani and British teams have been hard at work through the summer preparing for the arrival of over 20,000 British personnel and heavy equipment such as Challenger 2 tanks and AS90 self-propelled guns. These will exercise with a large force from the Royal Omani Armed Forces from 15 September to 26 October. They will be supported by the full range of airpower, with Tornado F3, Tornado GR4, E-3D Sentry, Nimrod, VC-10K tanker and C-130 transport aircraft deployed ashore by the RAF, Illustrious' Joint Force Harrier air group afloat and RAF, Army Air Corps and Fleet Air Arm helicopters. A major asset has proved to be the RAF's new C-17 heavy airlifter, which has been able to deliver up to 100,000lbs of cargo per flight direct to Oman.

UK Forces taking part in the Omani-UK exercise, Saif Sareea II, include:

Royal Navy (Argonaut 01 deployment):

Carrier Task Group

HMS Illustrious Aircraft Carrier, with Fleet Air Arm Sea Harriers and RAF Harriers embarked
HMS Cornwall Type 22 Frigate
HMS Kent Type 23 Frigate
HMS Marlborough Type 23 Frigate
HMS Monmouth Type 23 Frigate
HMS Nottingham Type 42 Destroyer
HMS Southampton Type 42 Destroyer
RFA Bayleaf Support Tanker
HMS Trafalgar Submarine
HMS Superb Submarine

Amphibious Group

HMS Ocean Helicopter Carrier
HMS Fearless Assault Ship
RFA Sir Tristram Landing Ship Logistic
RFA Sir Bedivere Landing Ship Logistic
RFA Sir Galahad Landing Ship Logistic
RFA Fort Rosalie Stores Ship
RFA Fort Austin Stores Ship
RFA Oakleaf Support Tanker

3 Commando Brigade

40 Commando
45 Commando
Cdo Logistic Regiment
29 Cdo Regt Royal Artillery
20 Air Defence Battery
59 Independent Cdo Sqn RE
131(V) Independent Cdo Sqn RE
Cdo Helicopter Force

Minehunter Group

HMS Inverness Sandown Class Minehunter
HMS Walney Sandown Class Minehunter
HMS Cattistock Hunt Class Minehunter
HMS Quorn Hunt Class Minehunter
HMS Roebuck Coastal Survey Vessel
RFA Diligence Fast Fleet Tanker


1 (UK) Armoured Division

- HQ & Signal Regiment Herford, Germany
- 4 Regiment Royal Artillery Osnabruck, Germany
- 5 Regiment Royal Artillery Catterick, Yorkshire
- 12 Regiment Royal Artillery Paderborn/Sennelager
- 32 Regiment Royal Artillery Larkhill, Wiltshire
- 39 Regiment Royal Artillery Newcastle-upon-Tyne

HQ 1 Armoured Brigade Tidworth, Wiltshire

4 Armoured Brigade

- HQ Osnabruck, Germany
- Royal Dragoon Guards Munster, Germany
- 9/12th Lancers Hohne, Germany
- Queen's Royal Lancers Osnabruck, Germany
- 1st Battalion Irish Guards Munster, Germany
- 1st Battalion The Highlanders Catterick, Yorkshire
- 21 Engineer Regiment Osnabruck, Germany
- 35 Engineer Regiment Paderborn, Germany

4 Regiment Army Air Corps Wattisham, Norfolk
30 Signals Regiment Bramcote, Warwickshire
23 Pioneer Regiment RLC Bicester, Oxfordshire
22 Field Hospital (plus Dutch Nursing Detachment) Aldershot, Hampshire
1 Close Support Medical Regiment Munster, Germany
4 General Support Medical Regiment Aldershot, Hampshire
1 General Support Regiment RLC Gutersloh, Germany
2 Close Support Regiment RLC Gutersloh, Germany
6 Supply Regiment RLC Gutersloh, Germany
7 Transport Regiment RLC Bielefield, Germany
8 Transport Regiment RLC Catterick, Yorkshire
17 Port Regiment RLC Marchwood, Hampshire
1 Battalion REME Osnabruck, Germany
3 Battalion REME Paderborn/Sennelager, Germany
6 Battalion REME Tidworth, Wiltshire
101 Provost Company, Royal Military Police Osnabruck, Germany
115 Provost Company, Royal Military Police Paderborn/Sennelager Germany


Tornado GR4/GR4A aircraft RAF Lossiemouth
RAF Marham
Tornado F3 aircraft RAF Coningsby
RAF Leeming
Nimrod MR2 aircraft RAF Kinloss
VC-10 aircraft RAF Brize Norton
Sentry E-3D aircraft RAF Waddington
Chinook helicopters RAF Odiham
Puma helicopters RAF Benson
Hercules C-130 aircraft RAF Lyneham
Harrier GR7 aircraft Joint Force Harrier, RAF Cottesmore,
deployed aboard HMS Illustrious
1 Squadron RAF Regiment RAF St Mawgan
26 Squadron RAF Regiment RAF Waddington

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