All five of the Royal Navy’s Gulf warships joined forces for the rare chance to patrol the same waters simultaneously. Destroyer HMS Dragon – based in Portsmouth and on her maiden deployment – linked up with Her Majesty’s Ships Ramsey, Shoreham, Quorn and Atherstone for collective training off Bahrain.
After a concerted spell working with one of the largest warships in the world, USS Nimitz, Dragon broke away from the American Carrier Strike Group and linked up with the quartet of British minehunters permanently stationed in the Gulf.
With the different roles of the ships – Dragon’s is principally air defence, the minehunters do as their name suggests – it is rare for them to operate together and rarer still for all five to join forces.
So when they do every effort is made to enhance the shared understanding of how the different vessels operate and how they react in various situations.
Dragon assumed the role of ‘minor war vessel protection unit’.
Her four charges were all eager to engage in some tactical training and development as well as fine-tuning some core aviation skills courtesy of Dragon’s Lynx helicopter.
t fell to Atherstone, leading the minehunting group, to co-ordinate a highly-complex series of manoeuvres designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of operating a large 8,000-tonne destroyer in very close proximity to a 650-tonne minehunter.
Sub Lt Richard Torpey, from Royston, Herts, said:
“This is my first time on a Type 45 and it’s exhilarating.
“It looks and feels new and when you realise all the thought that has been put into making her a better ship to live in and fight with, you can see that the money has been well spent.”
The combined training did not end there as Atherstone took on the role of a reluctant merchant ship not wanting to be boarded.
Unfazed by this reluctance the Royal Marines of 43 Commando, attached to Dragon, boarded Atherstone to conduct a search. With the training done, the five ships parted company.
Dragon is in the second half of her maiden deployment, a seven-month patrol of the Gulf region on maritime security duties, working with our regional partners, while the minehunters are assigned to Bahrain for around three years at a time, with their crews rotated every six or so months.
Press Release, August 23, 2013; Image: Navy