It's always a pleasure participating in world-class training with NATO to strengthen relationships between its partner nations and to make lifelong friends in the process.

Commander Steve Banfield

As part of her temporary role as the 'bad guy', Iron Duke sailed up to other participants, calling them to keep clear and releasing propaganda via simulated news websites and social media feeds to provide a realistic narrative to which the strategic communications officers in the NATO formation could react.

Although this was Iron Duke's third successive Baltops, it was also an exercise of 'firsts' -the first foreign port visits for a number of Iron Duke's most junior sailors and the first time that the Commando Helicopter Force variant of the Wildcat has deployed with a frigate.

"This exercise allowed the aircraft to switch from its regular operations close to shore to the sea, normally the preserve of its sister aircraft, the Wildcat HMA Mk2," explained Flight Commander Major Peter Clark RM of 847 Naval Air Squadron.

"Both types of Wildcat perform very different roles, so it has been incredibly challenging learning to operate it with a Type 23 Frigate."

'Marine 75' (the aircraft's callsign) was involved with 'surface search' activity, compiling the intelligence picture for Iron Duke and also 'spotting' targets to allow the ship to provide naval gunfire support with shells from her 4.5in main gun. In addition, the aircraft got to practise transferring stores by under-slung cargo net from the flight deck.

Iron Duke stopped in Szczecin in Poland, before, Aarhus in Denmark, during and finally, Kiel in Germany at the end of Baltops, where a number of the ship's company took advantage of some well-earned downtime and took the opportunity to sample the local culture with sailors from all the other participating NATO Ships.

Iron Duke is currently configured for Maritime Security Operations around the UK as well as providing training; as a result, the ship has routinely had approximately 200 personnel onboard (instead of the usual 180), all of whom benefited from the NATO exercise programme and experience of being away.

"It's always a pleasure participating in world-class training with NATO to strengthen relationships between its partner nations and to make lifelong friends in the process," said the frigate's Commanding Officer Cdr Steve Banfield.

"During Baltops 17, we've also been able to provide training for 40 Sailors and Young Officers from the Warfare and Engineering Training Squadrons and from Britannia Royal Naval College."

Having had a chance to explore one of the world's largest Sailing Festivals during Kiel Week 2017, Iron Duke is now bound for UK waters. After a whistle-stop visit to her home base, she's Liverpool-bound to represent the Royal Navy at national Armed Forces events this weekend.