Somerset submarine exercise in the fjords of western Norway

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet

HMS Somerset joined in the eternal naval game of cat and mouse when she and other surface ships acted as both hunter and hunted in the Norwegian fjords.

The frigate, plus sister HMS St Albans and Danish and Norwegian ships, acted as both prey and hunter of a Norwegian submarine, which was assessing potential future captains of boats.

This is what you call a sitting duck.

Perfectly lined up in the cross-hairs of HNoMS Utstein's attack periscope is HMS Somerset - her submarine-hunting Merlin Mk2 helicopter strapped to the flight deck rather than trying to track down threats lurking in the narrow but deep waters of the fjords around Bergen.

At the periscope were officers hoping to pass the toughest test of any potential warship skipper: the Submarine Command Course - aka the Perisher.

The most thrilling part of the assessment - for submariners and surface ships alike - were the 'eyes only' runs against the trainee submarine captains, who could 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.

After a week charging around the fjords, the NATO allies sailed into Bergen for a well-deserved break.

Somerset's sailors took advantage of their surroundings by organising a variety of exciting activities, especially winter sports: skeet shooting, being pulled along by huskies, trying out snowmobiles, not forgetting skiing.

Some of the crew took time to hike around the local area appreciating the spectacular views, with many enjoying the vista from the Fløyen Mountain on the outskirts of Bergen.

"It was great to get a group of ship's company up the mountains and to enjoy a day out on the slopes!" said Somerset's navigator Lt Matt Irwin.

"These are the sort of opportunities the Navy provides that you just have to grip with both hands."

The Bergen break was swiftly followed by a busy week at the NATO FORACS (FORces sensors and weapons Accuracy Check Site) range near Stavanger where Somerset could test her many sensors, communications systems, radars and sonars to ensure they're in full working order and she can share crucial information with other NATO warships.

So accurate are the results provided by the range, that NATO vessels couldn't give a FORACS for any other test facility.

With systems successfully aligned, Somerset returned to her home base of Devonport to prepare for looming sea training before the frigate resumes her global duties.

These are the sort of opportunities the Navy provides that you just have to grip with both hands.

Lt Matt Irwin