Enterprise sharpens skills with Japanese destroyer

HMS Enterprise has linked up with a Japanese Navy warship as she continues her mission to the Asia Pacific region.

After tracking – and avoiding – Super Typhoon Hagibis, the British survey ship joined forces with Japanese destroyer JS Teruzuki east of Tokyo.

The two warships met in fairly rough seas and carried out combined manoeuvres close together to test both ships’ crews and increase the ability of the two navies to work in tandem.

The destroyer also launched her Seahawk helicopter, coordinating with the ships below as they took it in turns to set the pace and direction of the exercises.

As Enterprise typically operates alone, Lieutenant Commander Jim Chapman, Enterprise’s First Lieutenant, relished the chance to do these exercises.

Enterprise is visiting Japan to support events surrounding the enthronement of the new Emperor Naruhito and take part in exercises with the host nation’s navy.

With one third of the ship’s company changing every ten weeks, crew have been conducting extensive training in the waters off Japan, ensuring that every one aboard is up to scratch in what can be their second or third roles on board.

Working alongside the Japanese is something we have been looking forward to during our time here. It was a good experience for Enterprise’s sailors to sail so close to another ship as it is not something we do often.

Lieutenant Commander Jim Chapman

Able Seaman Aiden Younger, from Hertfordshire, was the coxswain on the rescue boat during a man overboard exercise.

The 25-year-old seaman specialist normally spends his time on HMS Enterprise’s upper deck.

But when the alarm sounded, it was his job to get the rescue boat team ready and into the water – something they did in a few minutes.

AB Younger said: “Being in charge of the boat means the second I hear that alarm I get into my gear and check the team are ready.

“We then have to make sure the boat is ready and can get into the water in as short a time as possible.”

While the rescue team of three ready the boat, officers on the bridge are making sure the “casualty” stays in sight. HMS Enterprise slowed down and circled the dummy while spotters point to where it is floating.

Meanwhile, swimmer of the watch AB Jack Larkman was getting ready to enter the water.

The drill carried out by the ship saw the rescue boat collect the dummy ‘casualty’ from the water while AB Larkman jumped in to recover a buoy – in some sea states, the boat cannot be used so a swimmer is the best and safest way to rescue someone.

“You go into autopilot,” said AB Larkman.

“It isn’t something you can really practise for back in the UK. The first time you do it off the back of the ship is during an exercise like this.

“As the swimmer, you have to be ready. Due to the boat being so close to the buoy, I was able to get into the water and be winched back out again in a couple of minutes.”

With mild seas of 26C, these were not the coldest waters AB Larkman could face.

“You just have to be prepared and carry out your job,” he added.

With both ‘casualties’ safely back on board the boat, feedback is given to all those involved.

AB Younger said: “Because of the way rotation works with man overboard rescues, I might not always be the coxswain. Therefore, it is important we do these exercises so everyone is refreshed.

“It is an important skillset we have to retain.”

The same can be said for the gunnery exercise which HMS Enterprise also conducted while in the Pacific.

Her weapons - machine-guns and a Mini-gun - were fired to ensure they are being maintained well and the gunners can be relied upon if needed.

The pair would be used in tandem if a threat were to be identified with the ship’s main gun, her 20mm, also available if necessary.

AB Jacob Horner, from Milton Keynes, is a hydrographics surveyor on board HMS Enterprise but one of his other roles is manning the guns.

The 20-year-old said: “For this exercise we got to shoot 200 rounds at a target into the water. With the choppy seas and a relatively small target, it makes for difficult shooting but I managed to get some rounds off.

“It is always exciting doing an exercise like this but it’s important too to make sure we can fix any problems like a jam.

“Safety is key in everything we do so the more we can practise, the more confident we can be in using the guns safely.”