HMS Dragon has used the natural beauty and military ranges of Crete to sharpen her claws ready for tackling pirates and terrorists in the Indian Ocean and Gulf.
The Mediterranean island was the final port of call for the Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer – on her maiden deployment – before heading through the Suez Canal.
The NATO base at Souda Bay on Crete’s north shore is home to a specialist training complex for boarding teams and FORACS (FORces sensors and weapons Accuracy Check Site) which tests the myriad of sensors, communications, radars and sonars to ensure they are in full working order, allowing NATO ships to pass crucial information to each other accurately.
While the sensors were being checked, Dragon’s Royal Marines boarding team hit the water with Greek forces to hone their skills, and the destroyer’s Lynx helicopter made the short flight to Chania airfield, home to the Hellenic Air Force’s 115 Fighter Wing for training.
The Mk8 Lynx, call sign Draco – Latin for ‘dragon’ – were pushed to the limit in the 8,000ft mountains, traversing razor sharp ridges and dealing with local winds, benign 10kt breezes on one side of the mountain quickly became 50kt monsters on the other. Flight Observer Lt Laura Cambrook said:
“The flying was incredible, a bit bumpy at times but it’s training that you just can’t get back home in the UK.”
She and her fellow fliers squeezed in just shy of 18 hours flying in four days.
“It gave us a great opportunity for us to fine tune our flying skills and the hosting from the Greek Air Force was second-to-none,” said Flight Commander Lt Cdr Paul Ellerton, of 815 NAS.
“It’s a well-trodden path for Flights passing through the Med – but it’s still great training, especially for my first-tour aircrew who gained valuable experience from the planning through to the execution of the detachment.”
Dragon is in the opening stages of a six-month deployment east of Suez, where she’ll take over from frigate HMS Monmouth, maintaining the RN’s permanent presence in the Gulf to work with UK allies in the region and keep the seaways safe.
Naval Today Staff, April 16, 2013; Image: Royal Navy