Navy destroyer completes epic 2022 mission

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet Storyline: HMS Defender

HMS Defender has put the seal on an epic 2022 after returning to Portsmouth from security operations in the Mediterranean.

The Type 45 destroyer has sailed more than 27,000 nautical miles this year, operating in the high north, the Baltic and, more recently, further south in the Med with HMS Albion’s task group in the region. 

Sailors have reacted to short-notice activations and been involved in three major operations across an epic 2022.

Commander Peter Evans, HMS Defender’s new Commanding Officer, who arrived while the ship was in Gibraltar earlier this month, said: “Although I’ve only recently joined Defender, it’s clear that the focus, ethos and esprit de corps is something special on board. 

“Her accomplishments this year read like several ships’ worth of activity and having now seen the team first hand, I can see it is well earned. 

“I am proud to be part of her ship’s company and excited for what 2023 will bring. Defender continues to be the air defender of choice for both the UK and our allies and has had a truly impressive 2022.”

Defender returned home yesterday after being deployed to the Mediterranean since mid-September, working with NATO allies and partners on a European security mission. 

The ship operated closely with the Hellenic Navy, including on air defence exercises – a particular area of expertise for the Type 45 destroyer with its cutting-edge sensors and weaponry, including Sea Viper missiles, capable of knocking out moving targets out of the sky from up to 70 miles away.

She sailed into the Adriatic Sea to meet up with the US Navy’s supercarrier, USS George HW Bush, as part of a multinational force which included ships from Turkey, France and Spain.

This phase of her deployment was intensive but also invaluable as she worked closely with the US carrier and her task group, and also NATO’s leading force in the region – Standing NATO Maritime Group 2.

Defender carried out exercises in a range of naval warfare over four days before heading to Split, Croatia, later working with Croatian warship Vukovar before heading for Taranto in Italy – all after escorting Albion, RFA Argus and RFA Mounts Bay into Bar in Montenegro.

The early months of 2022 saw Defender deploy to the frozen north as part of the ring of steel surrounding aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales as the largest NATO exercises in the High North in 30 years took place.

Known as Cold Response, the Norwegian-led exercises saw 27 nations and 30,000 troops converge on the region in a showing of military might.

As April began, Defender remained in the High North and was leading her own task group in the region, which included Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Gravely and tanker RFA Tidesurge.

On completion of operations, Defender visited the Faroe Islands and worked closely with the Danish ship HDMS Vædderen.

May and June saw Defender head into the Baltic with NATO allies, showing the alliance’s staunch commitment to the region’s security during the largest military exercises there this year.

Defender provided the firepower and leading-edge technology, while six of the smallest craft in the Royal Navy’s inventory – Archer, Charger, Explorer, Exploit, Ranger and Smiter – provided the speed, agility and numbers to swarm around participants in Baltops 22, which involved 47 warships from 16 nations, including Sweden and Finland.

More than 7,000 military personnel were put through their paces in operational training across 13 days designed to forge closer bonds between NATO allies and partners and protect the security and prosperity of the Baltic and its nations.

The NATO ships and around 90 aircraft – the most ever on Baltops – pitted their wits against each other in testing warfare scenarios, battling threats beneath, on and above the waves.

Defender was involved in anti-submarine warfare exercises but also operated in her main role in air defence, including leading Task Force Six Four (CTF 64) of the US Sixth Fleet, which deals in defending against attacks by missiles and fighter jets.

Warships from NATO partners, Finland and Sweden, were for the first time in control of ships in a NATO task group, leading the way during mock battles against surface and underwater threats.

The 51st Baltops exercises also coincided with the 500th anniversary of Sweden’s Navy and, to mark this milestone, the Swedish hosted the pre-sail conference in Stockholm. Once Baltops wrapped up, Defender and the six P2000 patrol ships headed to Kiel, Germany.