HMS Albion fends off Spanish jets during Baltic exercises

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet Storyline: HMS Albion

HMS Albion fended off attacks from Spanish jets as they tested their air defence skills in the Baltic Sea.

Plymouth-based Albion is currently at the centre of the UK’s Littoral Response Group (North) deployment, which is now participating in large-scale NATO exercises – Baltops – alongside 17 other nations. 

But before linking up with the Baltops task group, Albion came under simulated attack from two Spanish Typhoons of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, which fired mock anti-ship missiles at them.

The assault ship sprang into action as the jets were detected and the operations room coordinated their defence to thwart the inbound fighters. 

Upper deck weapons crews and Phalanx operators were called on to report inbound aircraft or missiles and engage under the direction of the Principal Warfare Officer, Lieutenant Commander Natalie Burns.

She said: “The aircraft flew simulated missile profiles against the ship in order to test our reactions and defensive procedures before conducting Combat Air Support (CAS) training with the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) team from 29 Commando. During an air defence exercise the Operations Room will be at the fullest state of readiness to enable us to fight the ship and protect the people within it. 

“Personnel will be closed up to report incoming threats to the Principle Warfare Officer and Command, and the Electronic Warfare team will advise on how best to employ the ship’s decoys in order to protect the ship.

 “Training with live assets is really beneficial as it adds a crucial element of realism, especially for the upper deck weapons crew and Bridge team who are able to practice calling in ‘real threats’. 

“The ability to train with NATO partner nations also provides excellent opportunities for embarked staff to hone their skills in the maritime environment, ensuring that the ship and her staff, are continually prepared for deployed operations.”

The Spanish jet are currently on a four-month operation working with Italy and Turkey on NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, which has seen them guard the skies over the region since May.

The jets are kept on quick reaction alert 24/7 to fly security sorties in the Baltic skies. 

Prior to the fending off the jets, Albion had been working with the Finnish military and visited capital Helsinki.

Royal Marines trained with the Finnish Navy and two Jehu-class landing craft used Albion’s spacious dock for the first time. 

The exercises also include navigational manoeuvres and UK and Finnish landing craft working closely together. 

Lieutenant Emily Witcher, Deputy Navigator on HMS Albion, said: “During our recent patrol to the Baltic Sea, we had the pleasure of working with the Finnish Navy. 

“It was a great opportunity to work together and demonstrate the flexibility of our capabilities by embarking their landing craft into our well dock whilst they conducted training with our landing craft. It is important to maintain and progress these international relationships whenever we get the opportunity to.”

While in Helsinki, Albion hosted the Finnish Chief of Defence, UK Ambassador, Defence Attaché and Naval Academy Commandant.

Sailors and Royal Marines also demonstrated some of the capabilities of the UK’s Littoral Response Group, including new tactics being adopted. 

Stephen Boyle, British Embassy Helsinki’s Defence Attaché, said: “Albion’s visit to Helsinki was a great success with excellent training conducted by our two Navies and productive discussions held with the Finnish Chief of Defence.

"Completing her second visit in two years, Albion’s Captain and crew are looking forward a time when she can renew her ties with the city with the opportunity to spend some time ashore in beautiful Helsinki.”