HMS Portland joins NATO mission after honing skills on alliance’s biggest sub-hunt exercise

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet Storyline: HMS Portland

The hunt is over for HMS Portland after she joined NATO’s premiere submarine hunters putting the pressure on underwater foes for ten days.

The chilly waters of the ‘Greenland gap’ and Norwegian Sea were the setting for Dynamic Mongoose, the alliance’s largest test of its anti-submarine forces in the North Atlantic.

Plymouth-based HMS Portland was one of 11 surface ships involved in the hunt, aided by seven helicopters (including her own Merlin) and 16 maritime patrol aircraft.

The force spent nearly 150 hours – over six whole days – hunting the three submarines acting as prey (two conventional diesel boats and an American nuclear-powered hunter-killer).

Portland and her Merlin with their sonars, sensors, torpedoes and depth charges already make a formidable combination in hunting down a submarine.

The addition of the RAF’s new P8 Poseidon aircraft to the search has helped take the UK to the next level; Type 23s can now work seamlessly with the long-range maritime patrol aircraft to locate, track and, if necessary, ‘prosecute’ submarines.

“Dynamic Mongoose 22 has shown us that the combined efforts of these world-leading anti-submarine warfare capabilities are a force to be reckoned with,” said Underwater Warfare Specialist AB Lewis Hunter.

“All arms anti-submarine warfare is the ‘new normal’ as we continue to regain operational advantage in the North Atlantic.”

The exercise focused on actively finding underwater threats – sending sound waves through the Atlantic depths in the hope of striking a submarine and getting a ‘ping’ back – rather than a passive search, simply listening for a submarine.

Beyond using her own active sonar (bow-mounted and towed array), Portland’s Merlin helicopter deployed sonobuoy listening devices before Lieutenant Matt Ford manoeuvered the 14-tonne helicopter into the hover, allowing the submarine hunting team onboard to lower their sonar.

He spent nearly 25 hours in the cockpit and thoroughly enjoyed the international flavour of the exercise, involved not merely in submarine hunts, but flying people and supplies around the various participating warships.

“Dynamic Mongoose has provided a great opportunity to work alongside other NATO units as part of a large force against some challenging sub-surface opposition. “Mohawk Flight’s contribution to the anti-submarine serials has greatly contributed towards HMS Portland’s already very positive integration into Standing NATO Maritime Group 1.”

The group – currently seven ships and led by the Dutch in their flagship HNLMS De Zeven Provincien – is responsible for the safety and security of northern European waters.

“Dynamic Mongoose has enabled Group 1 to refine its ability to locate, track and prosecute threat submarines, a threat delivered by three very different types of submarines for the task group to practise its skills against,” said Portland’s Senior Warfare Officer Lieutenant Commander Tony Kane.

HMS Portland’s Commanding Officers Commander Tim Leeder added: “The opportunity for Portland to operate with submarines, ships, helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft from both sides of the Atlantic in a theatre spanning from Iceland to Norway has been most welcome.

“It has been evident that the NATO group is a well-practised and extremely capable group of ships.

“At the heart of this capability are teams of highly professional sailors from across the NATO alliance whose determination and expertise are the key factor in our seamless integration into the Standing NATO Maritime Task Group.”