Navy’s guardians ready for carrier mission after anti-submarine workout

Royal Navy submarine hunters are better prepared to protect its carrier groups after an intensive two-week Atlantic exercise.

Participants say NATO’s two-week-long Dynamic Mongoose off the Icelandic coast has honed crucial skills ahead of the maiden deployment by HMS Queen Elizabeth in the new year.

The exercise saw the largest British involvement in years: two frigates (HMS Kent and Westminster), each with a Merlin anti-submarine helicopter from 814 Naval Air Squadron embarked, hunter-killer submarine HMS Trenchant and, for the first time, a new RAF P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft – more than 500 military personnel.

In all six NATO nations committed five warships, five submarines and several patrol planes to Dynamic Mongoose which ended on Friday and tested their collective abilities to hunt down underwater threats in the cool waters of the Atlantic.

HMS Kent – which is earmarked to accompany HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of her carrier strike group when it deploys early next year – got in concerted submarine-hunting time against live ‘targets’: both nuclear-powered boats such as Trenchant, and traditional diesel subs from Germany and Norway.

The Portsmouth-based frigate used her towed-array – a long tube-like sonar which either actively searches for submarines by sending sound waves through the water, or simply listens for a boat’s tell-tale noise – and hull-mounted sonar for nearly three whole days while her Merlin helicopter spent ten hours on the hunt.

The Merlin lowered its ‘dipping’ sonar into the ocean and, in conjunction with the maritime patrol aircraft, peppered the water with sonobuoy listening devices.

The Atlantic off Iceland is just 10°C – its temperature and other properties play a key role in the effectiveness of sonar.

Lieutenant Georgina Harding, HMS Kent’s Operations Officer, said the combination of location and participants made the two weeks off Iceland particularly useful – building on training the ship recently carried out with HMS Queen Elizabeth in home waters last month.

“Dynamic Mongoose was an excellent opportunity for Kent to operate with Allied nations, exercising with a range of live submarine and air assets,” she added.

“The period also allowed us to develop our task group integration and operating principles – further preparation for deployment with HMS Queen Elizabeth during next year’s Carrier Strike Group 21.”

Dynamic Mongoose is the second of NATO’s two annual anti-submarine exercises, having run Dynamic Manta off Sicily to concentrate on hunting in warm Mediterranean waters.

Dynamic Mongoose was an excellent opportunity for Kent to operate with Allied nations, exercising with a range of live submarine and air assets.

Lieutenant Georgina Harding, HMS Kent’s Operations Officer