Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean took center stage during a multinational anti-submarine warfare exercise.
The helicopter carrier and navy flagship took command of Exercise Deep Blue II in the Mediterranean this month.
Ships and aircraft from the UK, US and France spent 10 days honing their ability to hunt submarines – a vital opportunity for all three nations to develop and practice their techniques as part of a maritime task group.
For the Royal Navy, it was a chance to evolve the necessary maritime skills which will be required to protect Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers from the submarine threat when they enter service.
Using helicopters, sonar and other techniques, the task group’s ships and aircraft spent the duration of the exercise working closely together to rehearse their tactics, develop new ways of working and learn from each other’s experience in the game of cat-and-mouse that is anti-submarine warfare.
HMS Ocean also embarked an entire tailored air group of Fleet Air Arm aircraft for the first time since 2012.
The seven helicopters from 814 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), 849 NAS and 815 NAS which fly the Merlin, Sea King and Lynx helicopters respectively, were vital assets in enhancing the ability to search for deep sea threats.
Captain Steve Moorhouse, the commanding officer of HMS Ocean and the commander of the task group for Exercise Deep Blue II, said: “I am delighted to have taken command of this multinational anti-submarine warfare exercise and am particularly pleased to have a Royal Navy tailored air group of seven aircraft embarked from Culdrose and Yeovilton.
“The work the US, French and UK are undertaking on this exercise will play a key role in the development of skills and procedures we will need when operating our new aircraft carriers as part of a maritime task group.”
The success of Exercise Deep Blue II comes after the French/UK co-operation on Exercise Griffin Strike earlier this year. That involved more than 5,000 personnel from the two nations in a test of the Combined UK and French Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF).
In June, HMS Ocean also took part in Exercise Baltops – a US-led multinational exercise in the Baltic involving 17 NATO and partner nations, designed to increase the participating nations’ ability to work together.