Maritime Strike

The Untold Story of the Royal Navy Task Group off Libya in 2011

Rear Admiral John Kingwell CBE

The first account of the Royal Naval Task Group's contribution to Libya and of Maritime Strike, written by the Commander United Kingdom Task Group.
Date Published :
August 2022
Publisher :
Contributor(s) :
Sir Mark Stanhope
Illustration :
20 photographs
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781636241135
Pages : 240
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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Leadership under pressure: the personal account of the commander of the Royal Naval Task Group deployed to Libya in 2011.

In April 2011, the newly created Royal Navy Response Force Task Group deployed to the Mediterranean to provide a range of military options in response to the Arab Spring. For the next six months the group planned and prepared for a range of potential operations including noncombatant evacuations from Libya, Yemen and Syria, maritime interdiction operations off the Libyan coast, and amphibious landings.

On 3 June the group began launching attack helicopter strikes into Libya and in the nights that followed planned 47 and executed 22 strikes destroying a range of targets including: 54 vehicles, 2 rigid hull boats, 2 BM 21 rocket launchers, 4 main battle tanks, 1 zsu antiaircraft vehicle and 3 command and control nodes. The operation saw the first operational use of Apaches from the sea and the first embarkation of US Army combat search and rescue teams and Blackhawk helicopters in an RN warship.

This is a personal account by the Group’s Commander, which brings to life the challenges of command – including authorizing strikes and mitigating risk to UK aircrew – in a complex and challenging environment. It reveals how closely the RN Group worked with its French counterpart, the support provided by the United States, together with the complexity of working alongside NATO and of simultaneously dealing with a range of UK authorities.

This is a story of leadership under pressure and the remarkable professionalism of all involved and the bravery of Army aircrew. It was modern defense and joinery at its best – British Army and USAF helicopters operating from RN ships, supported by Fleet Air Arm aircraft and fixed wing jets as part of a largely air campaign.

About The Author

John Kingwell joined the Royal Navy in 1984. He had four sea commands: the patrol vessel Pursuer, the frigate Argyll, the Assault Ship Albion and the RN Task Group off Libya in 2011. He also served in the Ministry of Defence on four occasions.

Promoted to Rear Admiral in 2013 he became the Director of the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) – the MOD’s independent strategic think tank. In 2016 he became the Deputy Commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies and his final role before leaving the service in 2020 was as Commandant.


1. Preparation for Command
2. Towards Formation Command
3. Task Group
4. Operation COUGAR
5. Maritime Strike
6. What Next

Final word


"...provides an excellent, highly readable account both of UK maritime operations off Libya in 2011 and the author’s career, from a working-class entrant at Dartmouth through to Rear Admiral commanding the Royal Navy’s principal task group. Moreover, John Kingwell sheds light on the responsibilities of command and leadership, including the burden of placing service personnel in harm’s way. This book will greatly appeal and is highly recommended."

- Dr. James Bosbotinis, Book Reviews Editor, "The Naval Review"

"John Kingwell is not only an accomplished sailor, he is a man with a special gift as a recaller of the mood, moment and broader context that went into the making of an extraordinary episode.
In these pages you are back with him in the Mediterranean in 2011. Maritime Strike has a bonus to offer – a fascinating story of the progress of a working-class lad to the rank of Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy."

- Lord Peter Hennessy of Nympsfield

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