Divers trial drones on Mediterranean deployment

Royal Navy divers worked with drones for the first time on an operational deployment.

The Fleet Diving Squadron’s Expeditionary Diving Group have been training in the Mediterranean, developing their ability to use remotely-piloted aircrafts on the frontline.

The team of eight divers are part of a wider navy task force, including HMS Albion, HMS Dragon, RFA Lyme Bay and Royal Marines from 40 and 47 Commando.

Together, they make up the Littoral Response Group (Experimentation) – a deployment which is helping shape the Future Commando Force and amphibious operations of tomorrow.

The diving squadron provide the task group with underwater force protection and explosive ordinance disposal. As well as their traditional training, the team also worked with the drones on how they could be utilised on future operations.

Working with Royal Marines they launched and recovered the drones in a range of scenarios.

The employment of these aircraft in a remote reconnaissance role gives vital situational awareness, helps inform a more accurate threat assessment and ultimately reduces the risk to life for our dive team.

Lieutenant Kevin Okihiro

Lieutenant Kevin Okihiro, an exchange officer with the Fleet Diving Squadron from the Royal Canadian Navy, said: “This tour with LRG(X) has been especially rewarding as it marks the first operational deployment of Fleet Diving Squadron’s experimental remote piloted aircraft system capability.

“The employment of these aircraft in a remote reconnaissance role gives vital situational awareness, helps inform a more accurate threat assessment and ultimately reduces the risk to life for our dive team.”

The Expeditionary Diving Group deploy all over the world and are held at a range of readiness levels for operations. Its core role is mine countermeasures, ensuring ships are kept safe at sea and in port.

They also provide a regular drumbeat of training, participating in exercises with foreign partners.

Lieutenant Commander Pete Needle, Officer-in-Charge of the Expeditionary Diving Group element of the deployment, said: “Despite being small in number, my team of highly skilled and motivated divers has provided an essential safety umbrella for HMS Albion.

“We have enjoyed the challenge of operating from a different platform, integrating with a new ship’s company and providing an essential contribution to the success of the LRG(X) deployment.”