HMS Blyth Leads NATO Warships through Major Minehunting Exercise

HMS Blyth Leads NATO Warships through Major Minehunting Exercise

HMS Blyth led international minehunters through a major exercise in waters off the historic Turkish city of Izmir. The Faslane-based ship is coming to the end of her six-month deployment to the Mediterranean, where she’s been in charge of a NATO minehunting task group.

HMS Blyth headed to the bay off the historic city of Izmir to join fellow NATO minehunters finding dummy mines while coming under simulated attack.

The Faslane-based ship is currently the command ship for NATO’s Standing Mine Counter Measures Group 2 – or SNMCMG2 – leading warships from Turkey, Greece, Italy and Germany through several weeks of successful maritime security operations and two major exercises.

The most recent of these saw the Sandown-class ship use both her divers and her Seafox system to detect drill (or dummy) mines laid in the waters around Izmir (for those with classical leanings, the ancient city of Smyrna).

At the same time the task group vessels had to respond to simulated attacks by small boats, fast jets and helicopters.

“The exercise saw Blyth prove its capability in mine detection and disposal, as well as training the ship’s force protection teams against a variety of realistic simulated threats,” said Lt Cdr Tim Davey, the ship’s commanding officer.

“Working closely with the Turkish navy, the exercise provided us with a great opportunity to train my team and maintain our core skills.”

Helping Blyth in her role as the command ship are two NATO staff officers from the Greek and Turkish navies who are embarked on board the ship, working closely with the crew to support the planning and execution of the ship’s tasking.

The exercise is the latest challenge in a demanding deployment for Blyth. Before arriving in Turkish waters she found herself at the centre of a major salvage exercise in the Aegean.

Involving a simulated fire and flood on board, the scenario was designed to draw resources and personnel from other task group ships and test their responses.

“The ‘assistance at sea’ exercise was a great opportunity for the four vessels in the task group to work together in a high-pressure situation,” said Lt Cdr Charlie Noonan, Blyth’s executive officer, who co-ordinates the response in the event of an onboard emergency.

“In the end, the response from all teams was excellent and it proved the close bonding and high levels of co-operation that exist among the sailors.”

The emergency exercise finished with a German fire-fighting team re-entering a smoke-filled compartment, a Turkish first-aid team dealing with simulated casualties and an Italian damage-control team conducting dummy repairs to ‘flooded’ compartments.

Blyth’s time on NATO duties is drawing to a close now. There are three weeks of maritime security operations to conduct in the Eastern Mediterranean, monitoring shipping movements, before she begins the 3,000-mile journey home to Scotland in early December.

During her time with the task group, Blyth has successfully conducted multiple exercises and training all over the Med, and taken part in simulated mine hunting in the Black Sea.

“The deployment has been both challenging and highly rewarding,” commented Lieutenant Hamish Maxwell, HMS Blyth’s navigator.

“Since arriving in the region in early July, the crew has done an excellent job and although we will miss our NATO friends, it is a good feeling to be approaching the end of our tour.

“We are looking forward to the return trip back to the UK with fingers crossed for good weather in the Bay of Biscay!”

Naval Today Staff, November 19, 2012; Image: RN