Royal Navy warships, helicopters and a submarine joined NATO’s annual anti-submarine warfare training, Exercise Dynamic Mongoose, in Icelandic waters on June 29.
Dynamic Mongoose, which began in Reykjavik, involves around a dozen warships and submarines – nuclear, such as Royal Navy hunter-killer HMS Trenchant, and diesel-powered – and around 2,000 military personnel drawn from Canada, France, Germany, Norway, the UK and US.
More than 500 British submariners, sailors and aviators are participating in NATO’s annual test of anti-submarine forces in cooler climes. Leading the charge above the waves are Portsmouth-based frigates HMS Kent and HMS Westminster, each dedicated submarine hunters, and each with a specialist submarine-hunting Merlin Mk2 helicopter embarked.
A 14-strong team of aviators and engineers from 814 Naval Air Squadron from Culdrose in Cornwall provides the helicopter for both ships.
Kent takes part in Dynamic Mongoose having spent the spring focusing on tracking submarines in the Arctic, Baltic and just last week working with carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in home waters.
“The exercise sees the combined team of HMS Kent and her Merlin pitted against other nations’ submarines playing ‘the enemy’, a complex game of cat and mouse which everyone prides themselves in winning,” said Lieutenant Commander Sid Shaw, in charge of Mohawk Flight on Kent. “Preparation involves every member of the Flight. The team are experienced operating from a small flight deck and hangar. It’s a harsh environment but one Mohawk Flight pride themselves in operating safely in.”
The engineers contended with choppy seas of four to five metres to prepare the Merlins as the frigates crossed the North Atlantic.
Each helicopter is expected to be flying for up to eight hours a day – operating in a harsh environment and using sensitive, hi-tech equipment including a ‘dipping’ sonar, lowered from the Merlin, or a sonobuoy, dropped in the ocean to listen for the presence of submarines.
“It’s great to see a different side of the Navy compared to the day-to-day living on an air station,” said Air Engineering Technician Alex Thomas on HMS Kent. “Integrating with the ship’s company and learning what they do has changed my outlook on working and living at sea.”