Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer, HMS Diamond put her sailors to the test as she sailed to meet the rest of the Task Force near Cape Wrath for a Combined Amphibious Landing Forces Exercise later this week.
HMS Diamond, which is affiliated to the cities of Aberdeen and Coventry, is to provide the air defence role for the exercise – which will see Royal Marines storm the remote area by landing from the sea and air under the cover of warship firepower.
Principal Warfare Officer (Above Water), Lieutenant Ben Martin explained:
“The Marines will be going ashore from HMS Illustrious and Bulwark to carry out their assault on land.
“As well as keeping an eye on the airspace, we will attack enemy positions on land by providing naval gunfire support from our 4.5 gun as they arrive on the ground.”
To prepare for this role, the warship has been taking part in a number of smaller scale exercises including practising firing at a moving target.
For this, JTEPS release a remote controlled dummy craft that acts as a small fast boat – or Fast Inshore Attack Craft – for all the ships in the task group to fire on.
“The aim is to disperse the craft – if we hit it then it is a bonus.”
“It is really about working with other nations – we all get a feel for how the other operates and it helps makes relations stronger for when we work together in the future,”explained Midshipman Annabel Broad.
As well as conducting the larger scale gunnery and air defence exercises, HMS Diamond’s ship’s company regularly practise their firefighting and damage control routines to make sure they are fully prepared for all eventualities.
All the exercises are as real as possible – with smoke machines used to severely limit visibility and personnel given strict time limits to be changed into their protective clothing, be on the scene and ready to fight the fire.
Other exercises include practising the loading of shells to the 4.5 gun manually rather than using the automatic system – with the target to load 27 shells in 17 minutes. The sailors have to drag the shells up several ladders on a rope pulley and then two carry it to the loading bay.
Chief Petty Officer Bren Stuart, 4.5 Gun and Close Range Maintainer said;
“All the shells we use are inert but they weigh the same as a live one at 47 kg,”
“We would use this method if the hoist broke for some reason and it does quickly tire people out because the shells are so heavy.”
Exercises such as these are practised roughly every three days when the ship is at sea.
“We can simulate anything from a galley fire to an issue in the machinery space, and these can take up to three hours if we make it a big one,”explained CPO(MEM) Archie Geddes, who is in charge of organising the scenarios.
“The ship’s company are fairly new to each other on board at the moment so it is particularly important that they all work together in these damage control teams on a regular basis and get used to their role within them.”
Exercise Joint Warrior is a huge multi-national maritime exercise involving more than 40 warships, 40 fixed-wing aircraft and 30 helicopters from the UK, Netherlands, Canada, France, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Germany. Over 12,000 personnel will be taking part.
A training exercise for Response Force Task Group, which is designed to respond at a moment’s notice to rapidly unfolding world events, this takes place twice a year in a vast arena off the coast of Scotland.
Naval Today Staff, April 18, 2013; Image: Royal Navy