HMS Blyth is in action off the North West coast of Scotland as part of Europe’s largest annual multi-national exercise, Joint Warrior; a highly enjoyable and challenging experience.
Among the other forces deployed are sister Sandown Class vessel HMS Bangor, Hunt class vessels HMS Brocklesby and HMS Chiddingfold.
This potent Mine Counter Measure (MCM) group is controlled by Commander First Mine Counter Measure Squadron One, Cdr Jim Byron DSC RN who is embarked with his battle staff on board HMS Enterprise.
It has been the task of HMS Blyth and her fellow mine hunters to clear the approaches to Ullapool in order to allow much needed humanitarian aid to reach the shores of “Pastonia” (which looks remarkably like northern Scotland) and improve regional stability.
Naturally HMS Blyth has been at the forefront of the clearance operations, utilising her combat proven SEAFOX (remote mine disposal system) and her Mine Clearance Diving team to identify and neutralise contacts.
“The training gleaned from this exercise is critical to my Command team. The Command and control required to work in a Task Group formation with Coalition and NATO partners is crucial to modern multi-national warfare.”
said Lt Cdr Ash Spencer RN, Commanding Officer, HMS Blyth.
The mine hunters have been able to practice combining their individual efforts to clear large areas quickly. Other ships such as HMS Portland and HMDS Hvidbjoernen have been providing the MCM force with air and surface protection, whilst HMS Enterprise has been providing essential forward logistical support. This has allowed the MCM group to maximise their time on task, replenish at sea, and do what they does best, mine hunt!
In the process of completing the mission HMS Blyth has been able to work up her entire ship’s company ready for combat operations whilst integrating two Royal Navy Reservists (RNR) for a short period so they can gain valuable sea experience.
AB Sutherland RNR has served alongside his full time counterparts as one of HMS Blyth’s specialist Able Seaman (Mine Warfare) Ratings. It is his first time at sea, but due to the lean manned nature of a MCM Vessel, AB Sutherland has been thrust to the coal face of MCM operations.
After just 5 days AB Sutherland has prepared and launched SEAFOX numerous times; recovered an exercise mine from the sea bed; and come under attack from 17 fast inshore attack craft and multiple enemy jets.
“I’m really pleased my first time at sea has been on Joint Warrior. With a little more specialist training, I hope to make even more of a contribution to the crews that I may eventually deploy with”
said AB Sutherland RNR.
The exercise is now in the free play phase with the enemy intensifying its efforts to stop the MCMs from re-opening the sea lines of communication. The ship’s company are up to the challenge despite the constant air and surface threat.
On completion of Joint Warrior HMS Blyth will be returning to Faslane to commence more rigorous training under Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) ahead of her deployment.
Press Release, October 17, 2013; Image: Royal Navy