Personnel on board Portsmouth-based HMS Atherstone have put aside their minehunting skills to instead imitate pirates as part of an exercise with HMS Monmouth in the Gulf. The joint operations come as the Devonport-based frigate builds up to operational patrols policing international trade routes in the Middle East.
HMS Atherstone, based in the Gulf as part of routine mine countermeasure operations, supported HMS Monmouth’s counter-piracy training by acting as a suspected pirate vessel.
She was boarded by Monmouth’s embarked Royal Marine boarding team, with sniper cover provided from the air in the ship’s Lynx helicopter.
The sailors onboard HMS Atherstone provided realistic resistance as mock pirates, giving the Royal Marines a chance to practise their man-handling and small arms skills to secure the ‘pirate ship’. HMS Monmouth’s second boarding team of skilled sailors then followed to search the vessel and her personnel.
Lieutenant Commander Ben Vickery, captain of HMS Atherstone, said:
“Operating with HMS Monmouth has been a fantastic opportunity for the crew of HMS Atherstone to show their professionalism as well as the capabilities of a mine countermeasures vessel when working with a Type 23 frigate, particularly in the operational environment of the Gulf.
“The UK’s mine countermeasure vessels often have to work in difficult and dangerous circumstances, both here in the Gulf and on operations as shown during the Libyan conflict.
“With this in mind, the value of training with a Type 23 frigate really comes to the fore.”
A further highlight for HMS Atherstone was the opportunity for her guns crews to practise their self-defence techniques when coming under attack from fast patrol craft simulated by seaboats.
Following the exercise the ships swapped personnel to learn about each other’s roles. Lieutenant Peter Davis, second in command of HMS Atherstone, said:
“The transfer of personnel of varied specialisations between ships at sea is a brilliant way to allow the cross-pollination of ideas and working practices.
“The process supports the RN’s enduring ethos of ‘all of one company’ which has long underwritten the flexibility of the Naval Service and its ability to deal with the ever changing threat to security in the maritime environment.”
Commander Gordon Ruddock, Commanding Officer of HMS Monmouth, has previously commanded HMS Atherstone through two Gulf tours. He said:
“As commanding officer you develop a great sense of pride and ownership over your ship, which is something that never leaves you.
“The UK’s mine counter measure vessels make a very important contribution to the coalition presence in the Gulf, and it has been particularly enjoyable working so closely with my old ship.“
Naval Today Staff, January 16, 2013; Image: Royal Navy