Dagger thrust across the Med as Gibraltar Squadron fosters links with Moroccan Navy in Tangier

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet Storyline: International Partnerships

For the first time Gibraltar’s new patrol ship broke the bonds keeping her in the territory’s waters and crossed the Strait.

HMS Dagger completed her first overseas visit since commissioning last July with a visit to Tangier in Morocco.

She normally works with her sister Cutlass and several RIBs as guardians of UK sovereignty in the waters – collectively they make up the RN Gibraltar Squadron, who are on the Rock around the clock.

Dagger is the most recently commissioned Royal Navy surface vessel and made light work of the 40 nautical-mile crossing thanks to her three waterjets and Volva Penta engines pushing her along at over 40 knots.

Once in Africa, her crew received a hearty welcome on their arrival into Tangier by the local authorities and the Marine Royale, the Moroccan Navy.

Although short, the ship’s visit has opened the door for more trips to Tangier and elsewhere. The combination of Covid and the introduction of the new patrol craft have kiboshed what were fairly regular visits to Morocco until recently – something the Gib Squadron is looking not merely to revive, but expand.

It’s keen to conduct joint training between Cutlass and Dagger and similar Marine Royale patrol vessels.

“Everyone assumes that the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron are on a permanent tether to the Rock. Although our main tasking is protecting the sovereignty of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, conducting wider regional engagement with our allies as part of a global, modern and ready navy, is also extremely important,” said Lieutenant H Kilby, Dagger’s Commanding Officer.

“HMS Dagger was given a fantastic welcome by our Moroccan friends and the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron are already looking forward to our next visit later this year.”

The squadron also operates several Pacific 24 RIBs – mainstay of Royal Navy sea boat operations around the world – to support the sovereignty patrols as well as conduct general duties around the Rock.

With the squadron’s RIBs in the water daily, it means their crews are some of the best and most experienced in the RN.

And that, plus the generally favourable weather conditions, makes Gibraltar the perfect place to send Royal Naval Reservists for a week of refresher training as Pacific 24 coxswains.

Ten general warfare reservists were put through their paces – not just by the RIB crews, but also Cutlass and Dagger – from man overboard exercises to keeping pace with the Cutlass-class craft.

All the reservists were trained in operating the RIBs – 25½ft long and capable of 38kts flat out – so the trip to Gib was a refresher which will allow them to serve as Pacific 24 coxswains with all eight River-class Offshore Patrol Vessels as well as to the RN Gibraltar Squadron itself.

Their Training Officer, PO(SEA) Ryan Scott from HMS President and a former regular who served in HMS Tyne and with the Gibraltar Squadron.

“This opportunity has been invaluable for the team to make their mobilisation to the Fleet seamless and ensure that they are ready to deliver operations at sea with their regular counterparts,” he said.

The squadron’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Simon Holden said reservists were vital to the success of the small unit – so it made perfect sense for Rock team to help out.

“We couldn’t deliver on operations without the permanent support of the Royal Navy Reservists based here in the squadron,” he explained. “It’s great for my team to be able to give back to the training cycle providing operationally-ready coxswains to the Fleet.”

HMS Dagger was given a fantastic welcome by our Moroccan friends and the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron are already looking forward to our next visit later this year.

Lieutenant H Kilby