HMS Brocklesby, Her NATO Counterparts Test Minefield Sailing Skills
Italian frigate ITS Aliseo leads a line of international warships behind HMS Brocklesby as the British warship shows the way through a minefield off Crete. Over two hectic days off the north coast of the Mediterranean island, the Portsmouth-based minehunter and her NATO counterparts tested their ability to sail safely through a minefield.
There was added frisson in Exercise Niriis 2014, as organisers also threw in some counter-piracy operations – not normally the domain of minehunting forces.
Brocklesby is Britain’s latest contribution to NATO’s Mediterranean minehunting force, which is currently led by the Germans in their support/command ship FGS Rhein.
Also committed to the group, which roams the Middle Sea conducting exercises to deal with any potential modern-day mine threat, and dealing with any historic ordnance left in the water, are the minehunters Weilheim (Germany), Chioggia (Italy) and Evropi (Greece).
Older members of the Royal Navy’s minehunting community instantly recognised the Greek ship as an old friend – she’s a sister of Brocklesby, serving under the White Ensign as HMS Bicester until she was sold to the Hellenic Navy back in 2001.
“It was great to see so many countries operating together,” said mine warfare specialist PO James ‘Soapy’ Watson.
“We have such different equipment but everyone works at the same fast pace to get the job done. It was particularly good to see another Hunt Class working with us, albeit now with Greek sailors!’”
The exercise took place over 48 hours in a secluded bay set against the soaring mountains of Crete.
“The location of the exercise was great for us,” said Brocklesby’s operations officer Lt Tim Allen.
“It was realistic for us to be in shallow water and operating close in to land which tests the bridge team as well as the Operations room and deck crews.”
His ship used her Seafox mini submersible to identify and dispose of test mines dropped for the exercise – after Brocklesby’s powerful 2193 Sonar picked out the objects on the Mediterranean se bed.
“Working with our NATO allies is always a great opportunity to reinforce our commitment to multi-national operations, but also showcases our equipment and high levels of professionalism and training,” said the Portsmouth-based warship’s Commanding officer Lt Cdr Ben Vickery.
“This was an unusual exercise in that the Weilheim also uses Seafox – and there was another Hunt-class ship involved, operated by the Greek Navy, but I feel we still showed that the Royal Navy is one of the best in mine warfare operations.”
Brocklesby will soon break away from the NATO group to begin the journey back to Portsmouth, with her place being taken by HMS Blyth from Faslane.
Press Release, April 8, 2014; Image: Royal Navy