Tanker RFA Wave Knight has been keeping frigates and destroyers in the hunt during NATO’s second major anti-submarine exercise of the year.
The two-week hunt in the Arctic – Exercise Dynamic Mongoose – sees a NATO task group, plus additional British and Norwegian ships and helicopters, searching for diesel and nuclear submarines off the coast of the Nordland and Troms districts.
The war game mirrors one NATO runs in Sicily each year – but poses participants with different environmental challenges above and below the waves (sea temperatures, salt levels and water depth all impact on the effectiveness of sonar searching for submarines lurking in the Norwegian Sea).
One constant factor in the Mediterranean or high North, however, is the need for fuel, food, and fresh water to sustain a time-consuming hunt spread over a sizeable patch of ocean.
So, one after another, five hunters – HMS Sutherland and Westminster, Turkey’s TCG Gokova, Norway’s HNoMS Otto Sverdrup and USS Gravely, the American flagship of NATO’s Maritime Group 1 – queued up to take on board fuel for their engines and fuel for their helicopters; the latter are at the forefront of the hunt, with Sutherland’s Merlin (codename Highlander) dropping sonobuoy listening devices and lowering its sonar to locate the submarines below.
Wave Knight replenished – or RASed (pronounced ‘razzed’) – Sutherland and Westminster simultaneously before doing the same for the remaining vessels.
In a couple of hours, she pumped 245,000 gallons – 1,113,000 litres… or enough to fill up more than 22,000 Kia Ceeds – of fuel for the ships, 10,000 gallons of AVCAT for the helicopters (45,000 litres/900 family car fuel tanks).
The tanker headed to Norway – painting her nose (the ring on the bow) to mark entering the Arctic Circle and issuing ‘Blue Nose’ certificates in a long-standing nautical tradition to sailors who’ve never been this far north before – after supporting the Royal Navy’s Baltic Protector task group in the eastern Baltic.