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Spitfire seen again in Crete as Enterprise tests her new hi-tech boat

SMB Spitfire, HMS Enterprises new Survey Motor Boat


HMS Enterprise has been testing her new survey boat Spitfire in the calm waters of Souda Bay in Crete. The nine-metre-long boat is packed with state-of-the-art equipment allowing it to survey waters off limits to its much larger ‘mother’.

Everybody loves new toys: especially when your toys are nine metres long, weigh nine tonnes, and effectively double your operational ability
Lt Tim Hall RNZN

It’s been a long time since they’ve seen a Spitfire in Crete’s great natural harbour Souda Bay.

Well, this is it. Probably not what most of you were expecting.

No legendary purr of a Merlin. No distinctive bulbous cockpit or elliptical wing. Definitely no Browning machine-guns rippling away.

This is Survey Motor Boat Spitfire, the latest hi-tech piece of kit added to HMS Enterprise’s inventory, gliding through Cretan waters at a sedate pace.

The waters of Souda Bay gave the crew of the Devonport-based survey ship the first real chance to try out Spitfire since Enterprise left the UK earlier this autumn.

She’s away from Britain for nine months, taking over from her sister surveying the Mediterranean and waters east of Suez, updating charts and taking various scientific readings.

Enterprise has been without a survey motor boat – which ‘fly the nest’ independently of the mother ship to survey shallow waters – for nearly 18 months.

As a result there’s a number of sailors on board the Navy’s ‘star ship’ who have little or no experience operating such a boat – although there are still some old and bold on board with a wealth of experience operating Spitfire’s predecessor to pass on their knowledge.

“Everybody loves new toys: especially when your toys are nine metres long, weigh nine tonnes, and effectively double your operational ability,” says hydrographic officer Lt Tim Hall RNZN.

“Launching such a boat from a ship is no easy feat. The first stage was to rigorously test the new davit-crane alongside to ensure everyone was familiar with how to launch Spitfire in benign conditions.

“Then came doing the same thing while the ship was under way – which will become the usual mode of operation. We recently achieved this with great success in the Mediterranean Sea.

“The next step will be launching and deploying the boat to operate away from the ship for a number of hours doing what she has been designed for – surveying areas that ‘mother’ cannot go – before returning and analysing the data collected.”

SMB Spitfire:

  • Top speed: 15 knots 
  • Crew: 4 
  • Engines: 2 x 6-Cylinder 315 horsepower Yanmar Turbo diesels 
  • Twin Hamilton jet propulsion units.

The engines also power 2 generators which supply constant 230v AC power used by the high-tech survey equipment on board:

  • Kongsberg 2040 Multibeam Echo Sounder 
  • Kongsberg EA400 Single Beam Echo Sounder 
  • GeoAcoustics 2094 Side Scan Sonar

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