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Sting in the tail from Westminster as she tests her sub-hunting kit

Westminster has teeth and tail
20 March 2017
Let’s begin the new week with a bang. Well, a whoosh, then a plop, courtesy of HMS Westminster as she runs through testing the gamut of weapons and systems aboard following her two-year refit.

A drogue parachute begins to deploy as a Sting Ray is propelled from its launcher and the Magazine-Launched Torpedo System on the 'capital ship' is put through its paces.

Having uncoiled its towed-array sonar - a 1,700-metre 'tail' lined with hydrophones (underwater microphones) which is normally wrapped around a gigantic drum behind the quarterdeck - to listen for any submarine activity, the weapons maintainers and ops room team flashed up the torpedo as well.

The Sting Ray launchers - just forward of the Portsmouth frigate's hangar - use high pressure to drive the torpedo out of its tube, before the small parachute deploys and slows its entry into the water.

The firing of this weapon system has been able to happen through hard work by a very able and determined team

POET(WE) Colin Howie, weapon sytems engineer HMS Westminster

Thereafter, Sting Ray - just 8ft 6in long, but packing a 100lb explosive charge to ruin any submariner's day - races through the water at more than 50mph until it strikes its target.

In this instance, the dummy weapon was recovered once the exercise was complete.

The system is among a Type 23's last line of defence against the submarine menace; normally the towed array should find an enemy boat long before it is within striking range, and a Merlin or Wildcat helicopter armed with Sting Rays or depth charges should have finished it off.

But if the submarine evades detection…

Ensuring both towed array and magazine-launched system were in full working order was a team under POET(WE) Colin Howie.

Well on her way, preparing to re-join the operational Fleet, today was a significant milestone for the submarine hunting frigate as she proved both her towed array sonar, her key tool for submarine detection, as well as, her Stingray torpedo launcher for fending-off submarines that stray too close.

"The firing of this torpedo system has been able to happen through hard work by a very able and determined team," he said. "It proves working in partnership with the civilians and other agencies the Royal Navy is still a force to be reckoned with."

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