A Royal Navy warship on deployment in the Mediterranean has been flexing her hunter-killer technique in an anti-submarine warfare exercise with the Italian Navy. HMS Westminster is working as part of the Navy’s Response Force Task Group which is on an annual deployment to the Med and then the Gulf that tests the flexibility and capability of the force.
Part of their tasking includes working alongside NATO allies – and in Westminster’s case this came in the form of the Italian destroyer Francesco Mimbelli and submarine Salvatore Pelosi.
Taking turns to practise hunting for each other, the sailors from both ships and the submarine were put through their paces in an action packed few days. As well as testing sensors and weapon skills, the exercise also tested the reactions of those on board.
There was also the chance for some of the sailors to experience life on board a partner nation’s vessel. From HMS Westminster, Medical Officer Lieutenant Moira McLellan spent two days on Mimbelli.
“It was a very enjoyable visit and interesting to see the similarities in the day to day workings of both navies.
Aside from the anti-submarine exercise, HMS Westminster has been busy preparing for a wide range of tasks including seamanship, flying, gunnery and boarding as part of her Cougar deployment and also in preparation for her operations further afield.
HMS Westminster is due to leave the Cougar force before the end of their deployment and take up station in the Gulf as one of the Royal Navy’s long-standing commitments to the region.
The Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster, Captain Hugh Beard, said:
“The ship’s company of Westminster have been working hard as part of our Cougar 13 deployment and also in preparation for our future mission.
“As a former Submarine Commanding Officer, I am a poacher-turned-gamekeeper and I have really enjoyed my experience with the capabilities of Westminster to try to defeat the Italian submarine Pelosi.”
The ships of Cougar 13 will operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Horn of Africa.
This annual deployment involves exercising with partner nations, and will show the UK Armed Forces’ capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world as part of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, commanded by Commodore Paddy McAlpine from the Fleet Flagship HMS Bulwark.
The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, made up of ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, at five days notice to act in response to any contingency tasking including humanitarian disaster relief or international military intervention.
As well as HMS Westminster there are three other Royal Navy ships – HMS Bulwark, HMS Illustrious and HMS Montrose taking part as supported by five Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels.
Press Release, September 3, 2013; Image: Royal Navy