HMS Echo Sailors Conduct Day, Night-Time Gunnery Practice off Horn of Africa

HMS Echo Sailors Conduct Day, Night-Time Gunnery Practice off Horn of Africa

Sailors on HMS Echo downed survey equipment and picked up cold steel as they conducted day and night-time gunnery practice off the Horn of Africa. The Devonport-based hydrographic ship is on a lengthy mission to improve our understanding and charts of the waters east of Suez.

A target disappears amid fountains of water leaping out of the Indian Ocean as survey ship HMS Echo turns her hand to gunnery in the troubled waters off the Horn of Africa.

The Devonport-based hydrographical vessel is on a long-term mission to improve maritime charts of waters east of Suez, as well as gather reams of other data about the seas.

Although not HMS Echo’s primary role, gunnery practice is a key element of the ship’s ability to defend herself – particularly in a high-risk piracy area.

The ship’s equipped with a couple of 20mm cannon, two miniguns – a modern-day Gatling gun capable of spewing out more than 2,000 rounds a minute which will ruin anyone’s day – as well as trusty General Purpose Machine-Guns.

And in addition to the ship’s company, Echo also has a small, specialist RN force protection team.

Lt Rich Watsham, Echo’s oceanographic and meteorological officer – and also her gunnery officer – directs regular exercises to maintain the effectiveness of the men and women under his charge.

“It is important for HMS Echo to maintain a high degree of readiness; we achieve this by regularly training our force protection team and organic ship’s company weapon aimers to react to varying types of threat, any time of the day or night,” he said.

Recent gunnery exercises have included night shoots and several practices against free floating targets, designed to allow gunners on all types of weapon to practice against a real target.

The crew also conducted several small arms shoots at sea to ensure that it is ready to protect the 3,500-ton vessel should the need arise.

AB(HM) Melissa Minion, normally responsible for the operation of the ship’s high definition multi-beam echo sounder, doubles as  a 20mm cannon aimer.

“Gunnery is certainly one of the highlights of my role on board.  There aren’t many people who get the chance to shoot a 20mm cannon as part of their day job!” she said.

Echo’s been away from home since January last year – rotating one third of her ship’s company of 72 and maintenance in foreign ports means she can be sustained far from her Devonport home for extended periods; she’s expected to be at sea for at least 320 days a year.

Echo’s scheduled to return to the UK later this year.

Naval Today Staff , June 8, 2012; Image: Royal Navy