Submarine hunting is black and white for Monmouth in Norwegian fjords

Having been run ragged in the fjords by chasing warships, would-be NATO submarine skippers bring their boat to the surface.

HMS Monmouth tested her submarine hunting skills in the challenging inlets and fjords of western Norway – while submariners hopeful of command tested their ability to handle a boat.

A diesel submarine was hosting NATO’s Submarine Commander Course – our allies’ counterpart of the (in)famous Perisher which puts RN officers with an eye on commanding a nuclear boat through their paces.

And Monmouth, not long out of an extensive refit in her native Devonport, was fresh out of navigational and underwater warfare training ready to pit herself against ‘the enemy below’ during NATO’s Dynamic Guard exercise, a mixture of electronic warfare training, plus fending off threats on, above and below the waves just south of Bergen.

The most thrilling part of the exercise – for submariners and skimmers alike – were the ‘eyes only’ runs against the trainee submarine captains – who can only use visual references and a stopwatch to help them evade the attacking surface ships, all set against a picture-postcard backdrop of snow-capped mountains.

“Navigating in the fjords brings its own difficulties, especially with the weather we’ve experienced at this time of year, but we’ve all made the most of the challenge in this most demanding and unforgiving of playgrounds,” said the Black Duke’s navigator Lt Daniel O’Connell.

ET(CIS) Stephen Britton added: “These exercises have kept us busy, but I’ve really enjoyed using my training for real to integrate our communications with the other NATO ships.”

To fully put the Black Duke through her paces she also joined in on a number of the other exercise serials, including simulated fast boat attacks against the force by two Norwegian corvettes – HNoMs Storm and Steil – capable of speeds twice as fast as Monmouth.

Dynamic Guard reached its climax with the participants split into opposing groups, pitting Portsmouth-based HMS Iron Duke against her sister; Monmouth’s Lynx helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron proved invaluable in helping the Devonport ship score a decisive victory against her South Coast opponent.

Monmouth is now heading back for home waters and more training – this time with Wildcat helicopters from 825 Naval Air Squadron, followed by a hometown visit to her namesake town (which means berthing in the Welsh capital Cardiff) in the run-up to Easter.    

Navigating in the fjords brings its own difficulties, especially with the weather we’ve experienced at this time of year

Lt Daniel O’Connell RN