Striking out across 1,000 miles of unforgiving ocean are the major warships assigned to the largest NATO war game of the year: Trident Juncture 18.
HMS Westminster makes her way out of Reykjavik in Iceland, where the larger vessels mustered ahead of the NATO-run exercise – and then stayed an extra few days due to rough weather in the Atlantic.
Conditions have abated sufficiently for the force – which also includes Westminster’s sister HMS Northumberland, American assault ships USS Gunston Hall and USS Iwo Jima (the latter with the Royal Marines of X-Ray Company, 45 Commando, embarked) – to make for central-northern Norway for the crux of the exercise.
Already in Norway is survey ship HMS Enterprise, which arrived in the small port of Kristiansund – about 90 miles west of Trondheim, the focal point for the naval element of the war game – in driving hail… despite the meteorological officer promising “nil significant weather”.
“At its peak, Trident Juncture 18 sees 50,000 military personnel from 31 countries – not just making it NATO’s biggest exercise of the year, but the biggest for several years.
Enterprise is putting her regular surveying duties to one side and acting as mother ship to four RN minehunters.
HMS Cattistock, Hurworth, Grimsby and Ramsey will conduct mine warfare training in the more sheltered waters of the Norwegian fjords once Trident Juncture gets under way tomorrow.
The exercise runs until November 7, with the chief goal of testing the alliance in its ability to work together to defend NATO’s historic ‘northern flank’.
With its many military ranges, fjords, mountains, cold climate, Norway is seen as the ideal training ground for land, sea and air forces.
At its peak, Trident Juncture 18 sees 50,000 military personnel from 31 countries – not just making it NATO’s biggest exercise of the year, but the biggest for several years.
Around 250 aircraft, 60 warships and more than 10,000 vehicles are involved in Trident Juncture which, although focused in Norway and the waters off it (Westminster and Northumberland will concentrate their efforts on anti-submarine warfare), the exercises spreads to the Baltic and Swedish and Finnish air space.