Al­lies on war games prove they’re a force to be reck­oned with

Western Morning News - - News -

PLY­MOUTH-based war­ship HMS Northum­ber­land has com­pleted NATO’S big­gest war game in years – and the largest staged in Nor­way in three decades.

Seven Royal Navy ships joined war­ships from across the al­liance in a 65-ves­sel force mus­tered at sea and in the fjords, with Royal Marines from 45 Com­mando on a US as­sault ship and Fleet Air Arm Mer­lin he­li­copters hunt­ing sub­marines.

The two-week work­out – from Reyk­javik in Ice­land to Narvik in the Arc­tic Cir­cle and Trøn­de­lag in Nor­way – drew in more than 50,000 mil­i­tary per­son­nel, with 10,000 ve­hi­cles rum­bling along the wind­ing Nor­we­gian roads.

Frigates HMS Northum­ber­land and West­min­ster spear­headed Royal Navy in­volve­ment in Tri­dent Junc­ture, sail­ing from Ice­land to the Nor­we­gian Sea as part of a task group formed around the Amer­i­can as­sault ship USS Iwo Jima.

For

Devon­port-based Northum­ber­land, the ex­er­cise came hot on the heels of six weeks of in­ten­sive op­er­a­tional sea train­ing.

That test is played out in the Royal Navy’s back­yard (the Chan­nel off Corn­wall and Devon) usu­ally along­side other Bri­tish ves­sels, in­volv­ing nu­mer­ous sce­nar­ios – but rel­a­tively few sur­prises to sea­soned sailors.

Northum­ber­land and West­min­ster suc­cess­fully lo­cated and tracked Nor­we­gian and French sub­marines in con- junc­tion with sur­face ships from Poland, Canada, Nor­way, Den­mark and France, safe­guarded Amer­i­can am­phibi­ous ships dur­ing air de­fence ex­er­cises – then sup­ported those ves­sels as they put troops ashore safely.

The sub hunts re­minded crews of the de­mands placed on ev­ery sailor aboard – whether they were mon­i­tor­ing sonar dis­plays or pre­par­ing meals in the gal­ley.

It meant clos­ing doors and hatches as qui­etly as pos­si­ble, putting on soft-soled shoes, ban­ning ac­tiv­i­ties such as run­ning or weightlift­ing in the gym and keep­ing TV/ mu­sic vol­ume to a min­i­mum.

“Any bump or bang makes our task ex­tremely dif­fi­cult as the sen­si­tive equip­ment picks up any ‘self-noise’, which can also give our po­si­tion away,” said Able Sea­man Tamara Dil­low, a sonar spe­cial­ist aboard Northum­ber­land.

“Turn­ing off the lights around the ship made ev­ery­one move around that lit­tle bit qui­eter; we as­sume our ship­mates are asleep and we try not to dis­turb them.”

The ex­tended pe­riod as­signed to the NATO task group also meant Northum­ber­land emp­tied her fuel tanks as she chased down sub­marines and chased off bombers. She took on fuel in the mid­dle of the Nor­we­gian Sea in a dou­ble ‘fill-up’ with the French tanker Somme and French frigate Bre­tagne.

“Dur­ing high-tempo op­er­a­tions we can­not af­ford to call into port each time to re­fuel, so must re­plen­ish at sea,” said Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Jeremy Bret­tell, Northum­ber­land’s ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and sec­ond in com­mand, who steered the ship along­side FS Somme for the re­fuel at sea.

“Sus­tain­ing each and ev­ery ship in a task group at sea is fun­da­men­tal to the con­tin­ued de­liv­ery of a fight­ing force.

“Work­ing with our French part­ners not only proves we can suc­cess­fully RAS on the high seas, but that we can con­duct it with an­other na­tion with whom we are build­ing ever-closer ties.”

Northum­ber­land’s com­mand­ing of­fi­cer, Com­man­der An­drew Canale. said: “Ex­er­cise Tri­dent Junc­ture is a clear and un­am­bigu­ous demon­stra­tion of why we must stand shoul­der to shoul­der with our NATO al­lies.

“Op­er­at­ing in a large multi­na­tional task group needs com­mit­ment and will­ing from us all. The op­por­tu­nity to re­plen­ish with French Navy col­leagues was a use­ful re­minder of our close mil­i­tary links.”

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