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The biggest military exercise in the UK began yesterday (Saturday 1 October), with more than 11,000 sailors, soldiers and aircrew waging a 12-day ‘war’ around the British Isles.

Air and sea activity around Cape Wrath and the Hebrides – and throughout the British Isles – will be co-ordinated between now and 12 October from RAF St Mawgan, near Newquay in Cornwall.

Activity close to the Western Isles is now in its most intense phase, with 1 to 5 October earmarked for exercise activity around north-west Scotland.

Later in the exercise, the focus shifts to the North Sea and Irish Sea from 6 October, and to the south coast of England from 9 October.

During the exercise naval forces from across NATO will grapple with attacks from above, on and below the waves.

More than 20 Royal Navy ships are led by seven warships, including destroyer HMS Diamond and three frigates (Kent, Northumberland and Somerset). Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers and a handful of submarines are also participating.

They are joined by vessels from the US, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, France and Latvia.

Belgian minehunter Bellis, Polish frigate ORP General Tadeusz Kościuszko and Danish frigate HDMS Vaedderen were pictured in Glasgow and the Firth of Clyde last week ahead of the exercise.

In the air RAF Typhoon fighters and long-range maritime patrol aircraft will be committed, as well as drone technology and virtual aerial assets, used alongside live aircraft to test the response of participants.

Merlin Mark 2 helicopters are to fly from Prestwick and RAF Typhoons and UK P-8 Poseidon aircraft will operate from RAF Lossiemouth.

Anti-submarine ships, aircraft and helicopters will hunt down live submarines, while land forces will include the gunners of 29 Commando Royal and elements of the US Marine Corps.

The pictures shows Belgian minehunter Bellis and HMS Northumberland at anchor in the Clyde late last week (Michael Cuthbert Photography).