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Royal Navy and NATO sharpen their ability to hunt submarines in the North Atlantic

10 May 2023
Royal Navy and NATO warships are better prepared than ever to hunt underwater threats in the North Atlantic after the alliance’s premier anti-submarine warfare exercise.

Submarine hunter HMS Northumberland used her advanced sonar and specialist Merlin helicopter from 814 Naval Air Squadron during training designed to strengthen allies’ ability to track and destroy threats lurking beneath the surface.

Northumberland can hunt the most modern submarines at considerable distances and locate them beyond the range at which a hostile submarine might launch an attack on allied task groups.

The waters between Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland were the setting for Dynamic Mongoose, the alliance’s largest test of its anti-submarine forces in the North Atlantic.

Fifteen surface ships from ten NATO nations spent 11 days facing down three ‘enemy’ submarines. A Royal Navy submarine was among the trio of allied subs playing the adversary, while seven maritime patrol aircraft provided further aerial support.

“Geographically, the North Atlantic and adjacent waters are areas in which we routinely train, but also undertake live operations,” said Northumberland’s most experienced submarine hunter, Chief Petty Officer (Underwater Warfare) Chris Griffiths.

“To be able to bring this experience and knowledge to the table to support our NATO allies is beneficial to all, as we learn valuable lessons through working with our allied counterparts.”

Iceland was the main host for the exercise, with Canada, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United States and the UK taking part.

Dynamic Mongoose was invaluable training for Northumberland and her helicopter, which was operating over the Norwegian Sea for the first time this year: water conditions such as salinity and temperature play a key role in the ability to find or locate ‘the enemy below’.

Skills and experience will be employed on front-line operations and future exercises, having given younger sailors their first exposure to working with NATO and wider allies.

“It’s great to be working alongside our NATO allies as part of the alliance’s premier anti-submarine warfare exercise,” said HMS Northumberland’s Commanding Officer, Commander Will Edwards-Bannon.

“Hunting submarines is a team sport and Dynamic Mongoose is an invaluable opportunity to not only train as an individual unit, but also share expertise across the alliance – developing our collective defence across the underwater battlespace.”

Keeping the allied task group supplied and ready for action was Royal Navy tanker, RFA Tideforce – she completed an impressive nine replenishments during the exercises, including for the first time on a Polish frigate, ORP General Tadeusz Kosciuszk.

Tideforce’s flight deck was also home to a submarine hunting Merlin helicopter from 814 Naval Air Squadron throughout, which completed numerous sorties in support of the exercises.

RFA Tideforce’s Commanding Officer, Captain Chris Clarke said: “Participating in a large NATO exercise has been a welcome addition to Tideforce’s busy schedule.

“Operating in the North Atlantic both for ship, and any embarked squadron, is always a tough environment; you need to expose yourself to its challenges if you are to be sure of your capabilities when necessary.”

HMS Northumberland marked the Coronation of King Charles III while at sea, with crew watching proceedings beamed live on to televisions in their messes.

The sailors also formed a ‘C III R’ on the flight deck and conducted a ‘cheer ship’ – when sailors line the deck as a mark of respect – before heading to Iceland’s capital Reykjavík where the ship was dressed all over.

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