THOUSANDS OF MARINES STORM U.S. BEACHES AS OPERATION BOLD ALLIGATOR SEES BIGGEST AMPHIBIOUS LANDING FOR A DECADE [!]
- 20,000 troops from eight countries take part in massive amphibious landing exercise in North Carolina and Virginia
- Exercise sees fictional country of Amber invaded by army from neighbouring Garnet
- Week-long operation will also see air raids on enemy 'forts' and counter-insurgency tactics
Thousands of Marines stormed the beaches of Virginia and North Carolina last night in the largest amphibious training exercise for a decade.
Troops from the U.S., UK, Canada, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia took part in the massive military operation near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and Virginia Beach.
The night exercise, known as Bold Alligator, pitched Marines from international forces in a fictional, friendly country called Amberland whose neighbour, Amber, had been invaded by Garnet.
Storm: Marines help to move an artillery piece after landing on a beach near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, during the Bold Alligator exercise
Operation: Amphibious assault vehicles storm the shore after driving off the USS Oak Hill during the war games exercise
Cooperation: French vehicles and troops land from a LCAT transport catamaran as the operation gets underway
Fast response: A Navy LCAC hovercraft lands on the beach in Camp Lejeune as the simulated amphibious assault swings into action
The Garnet army was rapidly advancing northward along the coast to Wilmington, North Carolina, seizing its port and airport and the forces have been asked to halt the advance.
Nearly 30 ships and 20,000 service personnel have been taking part in the exercise as military leaders attempt to provide a more realistic scenario for how amphibious landings could be conducted in future.
A new approach to the landings involves more reliance on allies and friendly countries, including making decisions on whether to stage ships in port or out to sea because of the potential disruption to a host nation's economy.
Military: A Sikorsky Super Stallion Iron Horse helicopter takes off from the USS Wasp as eight countries took part in the largest amphibious assault for a decade
New war: French troops prepare to storm a 'terrorist encampment' after the fictional country of Amber was invaded by Garnet. Right, U.S. Marines wait to board a helicopter which will bring them into the action
Kitted out: U.S. Marines board two helicopters as the initial landing stage of a week of war games exercises began yesterday
Mission: Another vehicle carrying troops rolls off the hovercraft
Naval assault: The USS Wasp discharges LCAC hovercraft as it stages operations off the coast of North Carolina
Duties: Two soldiers clean weapons on their AAVP7 assault vehicle on board the USS Wasp
The week's exercises have been in the planning stages for several years, and they take place days before President Barack Obama will submit his defence budget proposal to Congress.
Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, said: 'We didn't put Bold Alligator together to send a message to Congress, but there may be, you know, there's always second-order effects.'
Marines travelling on hovercraft from the USS New York landed at Fort Story - a military base along Virginia Beach.
After unloading equipment, they moved 2.5 miles to raid a mock terrorist training camp as gunfire, pyrotechnics and noise filled the night air.
Scale: Troops carriers drive along the beach after making landfall as 20,000 service personnel, including Marines, sailors and air staff, take part in the operation
Forward look: Seaman Opoku calls out sightings on board the USS Wasp in the Atlantic Ocean
Might: A crew members makes checks as a helicopter takes off carrying Marines
Exercise: A U.S. Navy landing craft lands in the dock of French ship Mistral to load equipment
Getting wet: Amphibious vehicles, with a soldier manning the guns, drive out of the surf with other warships in the background
Drilled: An LCAC hovercraft goes back for another load of troops and equipment after making shore
Once clear, 'killed' enemy combatants were searched for intelligence, civilians were evacuated and a booby-trapped weapons cache was blown up before the Marines returned to their ship.
Marines have been fighting wars in landlocked countries like Iraq and Afghanistan for years, and many have never even set foot on a Navy ship.
This is of particular concern as the military shifts its strategic focus towards coastal regions, including Iran, North Korea and China, which are drawing increasing attention from the U.S.
As part of the U.S. Defense Department's budget proposal, some ships will be retired earlier than expected while the purchase of others is being delayed.
Intelligence: Trucks prepare to drive off the Navy LCAC after it made landfall. The week of exercises will also see Marines storm a fort from the air
Time to move? A French Navy sailor watches as a U.S. hovercraft docks in the hold
Night fighting: An amphibious assault vehicle drives ashore as the sun sets in North Carolina
Discipline: A U.S. sailor monitors his radar equipment and, right, French soldiers cover each other as they carry out a patrol on land
Equipment: Weapons, helmets and binoculars sit on the deck as Marines prepare to disembark
Plans: A Netherlands Lieutenant Commander explains details of the mission to sailors
Amphibious assaults were common during World War Two, most notably when Allied troops staged the Normandy landings in German-occupied France in 1944, as well as numerous landings on islands in the Pacific. Since then, such landings have become far more rare.
The U.S. Navy is concerned about developing an amphibious mindset and a memo last year urged every sailor in the Atlantic Fleet to read doctrine on amphibious operations as well as three books on the 1982 conflict between the UK and Argentina over the Falkland Islands.
Later on this week, the international forces will stage an aerial assault and insertion of Marine launched from sea on Fort Pickett, Virginia.