Royal Navy minehunters have entered the Norwegian Fjords to bring their expertise to the sizable NATO exercise in the region.
HMS Cattistock, HMS Hurworth, HMS Grimsby and HMS Ramsey recently navigated across the North Sea and have now arrived in the town of Molde, Norway, to throw their weight behind Exercise Trident Juncture.
The multinational operation – the largest NATO exercise in 30 years – is heating up in the waters of the icy north and now the four British warships have begun mine clearance missions.
“This exercise allows us to practise our training and hone our mine counter measure skills in an extreme climate,” said Commanding Officer of Portsmouth-based Cattistock, Lieutenant Commander Chris Hollingworth.
“The climate challenges the entire team, especially the divers, to consider how to operate in an extremely cold environment.
“By contrast, the ship’s company will be deploying to the Gulf in the coming months and will then have to learn to adapt to the intense heat.”
More than 70 warships, 130 aircraft and around 50,000 personnel from allied NATO countries are involved in Trident Juncture.The Mine Warfare Battle Staff (MWBS) are leading the minehunters from HMS Enterprise as they track down ‘enemy’ mines.
“Essentially what we do is command the ships to give them their tasking, and also to support them,” said Commander Steve White, Commander of the MWBS.
“This support could be medical support, engineering support or stores support, to allow them to concentrate on doing their day-to-day job.”
It is a period of serious contrast for the MWBS. Soon they will be swapping the chilly temperatures of Scandinavia for the extreme heat of the Gulf.
Alongside the minehunters, a group of Royal Navy divers have been deployed to conduct their own mine warfare operations on the shoreline near Rovik, a small port village north of the city of Trondheim.
The Fleet Diving Unit 3 (FDU3) have deployed their specialist unmanned vehicle – called a Remote Environmental Monitoring Unit (REMUS) – to track down enemy ordnance beneath the surface.
“We’re testing our unmanned underwater vehicles and remote control vehicles, as well as sending out the clearance divers to find and destroy ordnance,” Lieutenant Commander Peter Needle, Officer in Charge (OIC) of FDU3, said.
“Using the unmanned vehicles speeds up the process of identification and minimises risk to the divers, but in no way does it eliminate the need for the divers’ involvement.
“The technology we use helps us get a positive idea of what we have found on the seabed and then we send the divers in to manually deal with the object.”
FDU3 are working closely with scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) who support the team with identifying objects.