HMS Northumberland Conducts Final Training before Heading through Suez
Sailors and Royal Marines from HMS Northumberland have carried out final boarding training before they head through the Suez canal to deal with international piracy, terrorism and smuggling. The Devonport-based frigate is making use of NATO ranges and training complex in Crete after completing her duties with the UK Response Force Task Group in the central Mediterranean.
One of HMS Northumberland’s sea boats skips along the surface of the Med as the frigate’s boarding team conduct final training before entering their operational theatre.
Currently in a rather wet Crete, Northumberland will soon be east of Suez, having completed her escort duties with the UK’s Response Force Task Group on its Cougar 12 deployment.
The ship will soon be through the canal, relieving her sister Sutherland on counter-piracy/smuggling/terrorism/drug trafficking mission in the Indian Ocean and environs.
Which is a very different mission from the opening stages of her deployment that saw her as the chaperone to Charles de Gaulle during Exercise Corsican Lion, when she came under French command.
As well as acting as guardian of the French flagship, the Devonport-based warship came under attack from very-low-flying carrier-based Rafale and land-based Mirage fighters and practised close-in ship manoeuvring with accompanying French destroyers.
The supporting French tanker offered both fuel and a realistic platform for Northumberland’s boarding team from 43 Commando to experience a genuine language barrier as well as an unfamiliar ship layout.
After a brief fuelling and re-storing visit to Toulon with the rest of the British task group, Northumberland sailed for advanced anti-submarine warfare training with a friendly submarine.
“My ship’s company enjoyed – and benefited immensely from – our time on Corsican Lion,” said Northumberland’s Commanding Officer Cdr Paddy Dowsett.
“We’re particularly grateful for being made to feel so welcome while working with the French carrier strike group.
“The exercise proved our ability to operate as part of a joint expeditionary force, and helped enhance all aspects of our warfare skills.
“The opportunity to conduct extended and realistic training against a submarine has been most welcome.
“It reinforced the view that a Type 23 frigate such as Northumberland, fitted with Sonar 2087 and a Merlin helicopter remains the most potent anti-submarine warfare platform of any navy at sea today.”
Detaching from the Cougar task group (which is currently in Malta), Northumberland’s focus shifted to the wide-ranging maritime security mission in the Indian Ocean.
Crete is traditionally the final stop for any RN warship heading east of Suez because:
(a) it’s a good run ashore and, more importantly
(b) it’s home to the very important FORACS (FORces sensors and weapons Accuracy Check Site) which tests the myriad of sensors, communications, radars and sonars to ensure they’re in full working order, allowing NATO ships to pass crucial information to each other accurately – crucial ahead of a six-month stint in the Indian Ocean.
The NATO base in Souda Bay is also home to the Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre, whose pièce de resistance is a former Hellenic Navy training ship, the Aris, now used to allow visiting ship’s companies to hone their board and search skills.
Which is exactly what Northumberland’s blue (Royal Navy) and green (Royal Marines) teams did.
Naval Today Staff, November 21, 2012; Image: RN