Action stations off the Ayrshire coast
The Royal Navy mine hunter, HMS Blyth, found itself under attack off the south Ayrshire coast recently when it took part in the largest military exercise in Europe, Exercise Joint Warrior.
Thankfully it was simulated attack, part of the demanding training regime which the Sandown class vessel has been undergoing during the exercise which began on April 16.
The sophisticated ship, which is made from glass-reinforced plastic to avoid triggering magnetic mines, is part of a Mine Counter Measures Task Force operating alongside fellow mine hunters HMS Atherstone, HMS Brocklesby, HMS Grimsby and HMS Shoreham.
On April 18, the Task Group, along with Royal Navy Survey Ship HMS Enterprise, were pushed to their limits when the simulated attack was launched from a swarm of Fast Inshore Attack Craft.
The attackers came in Rigid Inflatable Boats and Jet Skis, but fortunately found themselves up against the formidable firepower of the Task Group's support ships - Type 23 Frigates HMS St Albans and HMS Monmouth, as well as the United States' Arleigh Burk class Destroyer, USS Forrest Sherman.
The training, which is known as a SWARMEX, saw the units operating in close proximity and at high speed to defend themselves. The smaller ships of the Task Group were protected and safely escorted through a chokepoint off the west coast of Scotland, with air defence provided by Royal Navy Lynx and Merlin helicopters.
However, just when the Task Group and support ships had tackled the waterborne threat and thought themselves safe, they found that they had to re-focus on another simulated threat - an attack from the air!
Coming under air attack from Hawk jets off Ailsa Craig in south Ayrshire, HMS Blyth led from the front, acting as a guide to the other ships. With HMS St Albans providing covering firepower, the threat was unable to penetrate the Group's formidable defences.
"After recently completing Operational Sea Training, Joint Warrior has allowed us to operate as part of a Task Group in a realistic and challenging scenario," said HMS Blyth's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Tim Davey.
"This training will ensure that we are ready for our NATO deployment in June any contingent tasking that may come our way."
Exercise Joint Warrior is a multinational exercise conducted twice yearly, designed to give participants valuable experience for real world operations around the globe and in working with allies.
During the two-week exercise personnel from the Joint Tactical Planning Staff (JTEPS) use HM Naval Base Clyde as their centre of operations, coordinating the huge nationwide exercise which is due to run until April 26.
Also based at HM Naval Base Clyde is HMS Blyth, one of seven ships which make up the First Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCM1). The hi-tech warship incorporates an array of equipment that allows it to detect, identify and neutralise any mine threat and keep the seas safe for merchant and civilian shipping.
This article appeared in Cumnock Chronicle 24 Apr 12