A MAJOR military exercise involving 11 NATO countries will begin off the Scottish coast this weekend – but the participants’ presence on the Firth of Clyde will be significantly reduced from in previous years.

In previous years Exercise Joint Warrior has seen large numbers of naval ships – from the UK and other nations – gather on the Firth of Clyde before the training exercise gets under way, with many visible from the Ayrshire coast as they sailed to or from Faslane or other locations on the upper Firth.

But this year it’s expected that only a small handful of visiting ships – understood to be less than half a dozen – will be visible from the Ayrshire coast before and during the two weeks of the exercise, which begins on October 1.

And this year’s operation will not be co-ordinated and controlled from HM Naval Base Clyde – the control room for past Joint Warriors – but from RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall instead.

Irvine Times: Training with a mini-gun at sea during a previous Exercise Joint WarriorTraining with a mini-gun at sea during a previous Exercise Joint Warrior (Image: Royal Navy)

It’s understood this is partly because of renovation work taking place at the Clyde base, but also because the latest exercise, unlike many that have taken place in the past, will be partly held off the south coast of England.

The latest Joint Warrior manoeuvres will run until Friday, October 14 and will involve some 11,500 military personnel, 45 ships and submarines, and 30 aircraft from 11 countries – the UK, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the United States. 

During the first phase – running from Saturday, October 1 until Wednesday, October 5 – there will be maritime activity in exercise areas off the west coast of Scotland, the Pentland Firth, and Cape Wrath.

From October 6-8, the activity will move to the North Sea and Irish Sea, before heading to the south coast of England for the third and final phase from October 9-14.

As well as activity off the UK coast, there will also be Merlin Mark 2 helicopters flying from Prestwick and RAF Typhoons and UK P-8 Poseidon aircraft operating from RAF Lossiemouth.

Irvine Times: An RAF Typhoon aircraft and Royal Navy frigate in action on the North Sea (Image - MoD)MoD)An RAF Typhoon aircraft and Royal Navy frigate in action on the North Sea (Image - MoD)MoD) (Image: Royal Navy)

Exercise Joint Warrior is a joint and combined exercise, involving all three branches of the UK armed forces – Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army. 

Usually held twice a year – in the spring and autumn – it provides the armed forces the opportunity to train together in a realistic, but controlled, environment. 

It sees military personnel practising joint working around scenarios such as war fighting, anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations, reconnaissance, disaster relief, anti-submarine warfare, amphibious landings, and other skills needed in the modern battle space.

Further information on Exercise Joint Warrior, including notices to mariners and impact statements, can be found by visiting the King’s Harbour Master Clyde (KHM Clyde) website