1st Patrol Boat Squadron’s Baltops endeavour

The P2000s of the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron are a familiar sight in the Baltic; the ships have frequently represented the Royal Navy in recent years as part of their University Royal Naval Unit (URNU) summer deployments travelling to countries throughout the region.

This year, however, Her Majesty’s Ships Exploit, Ranger, Archer and Smiter have been operating in the Baltic in a difference guise. For the first time the ships have taken part in the NATO exercise BALTOPS, representing the UK alongside the frigate HMS Iron Duke and minehunter HMS Shoreham.

Sailing in late June, the ships made the week long transit through The Netherlands and Germany before passing through the Kiel Canal and entering the Baltic.

Initially working as a unit of four based in Naskov, Denmark the ships formed a task group commanded by the Lithuanian Patrol Boat LNS Zemaitis, playing the role of the Bothnian forces (the fictitious state created for the exercise, determined to see NATO’s mission fail).

For the second phase of the exercise HMS Exploit and HMS Archer relocated to Eckernfӧrde while HMS Ranger and HMS Smiter moved east into Poland to Swinoujscie and Uska.

Continuing with their work to support the people of Bothnia, the ships successfully located and reported locations of coalition warships, harassed them and tested their defences in a variety of (often unconventional) ways. 

For the first time the ships have embarked an extra qualified Officer of the Watch, in addition to the Commanding Officer, to enable them to stay at sea for longer periods of time.

These ships often act as enemy forces during exercises in UK waters, helping to simulate attacks to ships undergoing training

Lieutenant Kate Borland, Commanding Officer HMS Exploit and Officer in Charge of the four ships


“Having recently achieved my Navigation Watchkeeping Certificate it’s been great to consolidate everything I have learnt throughout training whilst in an operational environment”, said Sub Lieutenant Charlie Dodson-Wells, the Officer of the Watch in HMS Ranger.

“The ships operate like larger Royal Navy Ships as far as possible; trying to operate in such a way with far less manpower and fewer resources has been challenging at times but very enjoyable,” he added.

“These ships often act as enemy forces during exercises in UK waters, helping to simulate attacks to ships undergoing training”, commented Lieutenant Kate Borland, Commanding Officer HMS Exploit and Officer in Charge of the four ships.

She continued, “previous deployments have proven the ability for the ships to operate well outside of UK waters, we’ve now been able to combine two skills sets, strengthening the operational ability and flexibility of the P2000 fleet in the process.”

At the end of the exercise the ships relocated to Kiel ready to represent the Royal Navy during Kiel week and will now embark on the URNU phase of their deployment, moving through Europe embarking University students from their respective affiliated units, giving them an appreciation of life in the Royal Navy.