HMS Northumberland heads to Canada on submarine hunt

Heading for Halifax to take part in the biggest sub hunt in the North Atlantic this year is HMS Northumberland, which today left Plymouth behind.

The frigate faces a 3,000-mile journey to Nova Scotia to join forces with other like-minded warships taking part in Cutlass Fury 2019.

Every few years the Canadian Atlantic Fleet invites NATO navies to hunt submarines in the challenging waters – busy, cold, deep, prone to fog and, in the spring and early summer, icebergs – off their Eastern Seaboard.

Cutlass Fury 2019 is the largest such workout since the mid-1990s with 22 warships from Canada, the USA, UK, Spain, France and Germany committed to the 11-day exercise, alongside jets, helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft.

The exercise will focus on tactical training – the nitty-gritty of a submarine hunt – meshing different practices, equipment and ideas so that all participants can work seamlessly together.

And to ensure that Cutlass Fury is not all one-way traffic, some of the surface ships will become the hunted as the submarine crews hone their skills.

For good measure, air defence, board and search and amphibious operations are also included to test personnel on and above the waves, as well as beneath them.

Cutlass Fury leads into Northumberland’s principal mission of the autumn, taking her place in HMS Queen Elizabeth’s carrier strike group as the future flagship conducts training off the coast of the USA on her Westlant 19 deployment.

Everyone on board HMS Northumberland is very keen to be going on this deployment. I have some very junior sailors, and this will be their first time away, as well as many seasoned hands on board It’s an exciting time and it’s what we joined the Royal Navy to do.

Commander Alexandra Pollard, HMS Northumberland’s Commanding Officer

“Working as part of the Carrier Strike Group for the first time and alongside the other UK units is a real privilege. I spent a lot of my time on the old Type 42 destroyers working with Harriers and to witness that progression to the F-35s is a real honour for me,” Commander Pollard added.

It’s the first duty of Northumberland to shield the carrier task force from the prying eyes of hostile submarines as Queen Elizabeth embarks British front-line F-35 Lightning stealth fighters for the first time.

Joining her in the ring of steel around the 65,000-tonne carrier will be Type 45 air defence destroyer HMS Dragon, Merlin helicopters from RNAS Culdrose and RNAS Yeovilton, as well as Wildcats from 815 Naval Air Squadron.

“HMS Northumberland joining the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike task group is a key milestone in developing the integrated task group capability that will be the centrepiece of Royal Navy operations for the future,” said Commodore Rob Bellfield, Commander Devonport Flotilla.

“HMS Northumberland’s anti-submarine warfare capability will enhance the task group’s ability to project maritime power – and it’s a clear demonstration of the role that Devonport-based Type 23 frigates have in supporting carrier operations.”   

RFA Tideforce will provide tanker support – fuel, stores, food and fresh water if necessary – and Lima Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, based in Plymouth and a medical team will also be embarked in the carrier.