UK Warship Comes Through Major Test
HMS Dragon played with a dazzling array of air power in the Gulf – including a B1 bomber – as she tested her ability to direct a wealth of aircraft on to targets. The Type 45 destroyer linked up with US naval and air forces, including Hornet strike bombers, Apache gunships and drones to see how well Anglo-American ships and aircraft can work together.
Built to take out enemy aircraft and missiles, destroyer HMS Dragon faced one of her sternest tests to date when she linked up with a wealth of American jets and helicopters in the Gulf.
This time, however, it was not her defensive prowess put on the line but her ability to choreograph an impressive array of air power – B-1B Lancer bombers, Apache gunships, F/A-18A Hornets, Sea Hawk helicopters, Sea Eagle drones, plus Dragon’s own 815 Naval Air Squadron Lynx.
The Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer, drawing to the end of her maiden deployment, met up with the command and support ship USS Ponce (pronounced pon-say) and destroyer USS Shoup to test both the command and control structure of different vessels with different technology, as well as the ops rooms team.
To add to the already potent ability of Dragon’s radar suite – capable of tracking scores of contacts at distances of over 250 miles – she was assisted by an eye-in-the-sky Sea King from 849 NAS which scours the skies doing the same courtesy of its Searchwater radar.
The reams of data the collective radars gathered were fed back to the teams of radar operators and aircraft controllers in Dragon’s hi-tech operations room.
“It is all about directing the right aircraft on top of the right vessel at the right time, whether that is for identifying and targeting purposes, or, if required, for engaging with weapons while still at a safe distance from the ships,”explained Sub Lt Ali Taylor, one of three fighter controllers aboard Dragon whose job it is to direct aircraft on to targets.
“This was a far more highly complex exercise in comparison to previous exercises in which we have participated. The Command and Control of such a large number and type of aircraft was incredibly challenging.
“It’s another fantastic demonstration of how maritime and air power provides more than the sum of their parts, when they operate so closely together.”
As well as a test of air power, the exercise also featured several US Navy patrol ships – USS Firebolt, Sirocco and Whirlwind – and US Coast Guard Cutters Aquidneck and Maui acting as challenging contacts.
The Anglo-American workout came hot on the heels (literally – it’s the high 30s Celsius in the Gulf presently) of the Portsmouth-based destroyer working with RAF Typhoons based in the region.
Dragon’s due home in Portsmouth next month.
Press Release, September 11, 2013; Image: Royal Navy