Baltic blast for Blyth as gunners target Danish drones

Gunners on HMS Blyth let rip with live ammo as their NATO task group came under attack off the Danish coast.

The minehunter and her four international comrades thwarted waves of assaults by drones on and above the waves giving gunnery teams across the force the best possible workout.

Blyth is assigned to NATO’s Mine Counter-measures Group 1 – five ships, more than 200 sailors committed to safety, security and international partnerships in the waters of northern Europe, with the emphasis on mine warfare.

The MULTEX range off the Sjaelland Odde peninsula – about 50 miles northwest of the Danish capital – is run by the Danish Navy, who operate aerial drones and automated boats as realistic moving targets, as well as more traditional floating targets for ships to aim at.

To stop an attacker in his tracks, Blyth alone can call upon a 30mm main gun, .50 calibre heavy machine-guns, Minigun Gatling guns, standard machine-guns and finally small arms in the hands of the ship’s Standing Sea Response Force.

Although the Faslane-based ship is highly manoeuvrable, like all minehunters she’s not fast; the NATO group relies on safety in numbers, good communications, collective firepower and, not least, good marksmanship.

The opportunity to train force protection against a realistic and moving threat within a formation is rare. Therefore the MULTEX range was excellent training for the group.

Commander Jan Wijchers

And while the gunners were throwing up walls of lead above decks, below the responses of firefighting and damage control teams and medics were also being tested.

As a result, the time spent on the Danish range was hailed as “great training for all units”.

“The opportunity to train force protection against a realistic and moving threat within a formation is rare. Therefore the MULTEX range was excellent training for the group,” said the NATO force commander, the Netherlands’ Commander Jan Wijchers.

After completing the exercise, the group sailed through the Little Belt – one of the three Danish straits which connects the Baltic with the Kattegat – allowing for some challenging navigation in strong currents and spectacular sights passing under impressive bridges on the way to Kiel.

The ships entered the home of the German Navy paying their respects passing the imposing naval memorial at Laboe on the eastern shore of Kiel Bay; the red-brick tower is Germany’s equivalent of the three naval memorials in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham.

Despite enjoying a five-day stay in Kiel, Covid restrictions to protect both the ship’s companies and the host nation prevented Blyth’s 45 sailors from exploring the city – or the wider region.

But they were permitted a leg stretch and a spot of sport in the naval base while their ship topped up on food and fuel.

The group departs Kiel today and heads deeper into the Baltic for further exercises as well as operations dealing with wartime bombs, mines and explosives dropped or dumped in the sea.