Sama lovin’ – Spey enjoys taking part in major Philippines naval exercise

Topic: Operational activityInternational partnership Storyline: HMS Spey

Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Spey played a full role in the largest maritime workout in the Philippines.

For the second year running the patrol ship was invited to join the US-Filipino navies on their large – and wide-ranging – international exercise focused on the security and prosperity of the region… and the ability of partner nations to support and safeguard that peace and success.

For the seventh time of Sama Sama – ‘Together’ in the local lingo Tagalog – drew in international allies committed to and with a vested interest in a flourishing Philippines: Canada and Japan joined the UK in providing warships alongside the joint hosts.

Before there could be any action at sea, participants spent a week ashore at a variety of Maritime Training Forums to discuss and share standard operating practices in subjects such as medicine, legal concepts, engineering, logistics and public affairs.

The ships then put to sea for manoeuvres off the coast of Luzon, Philippines, with the emphasis in 2023 iteration of Sama Sama on joint cooperation and the combined response of several allied countries with naval vessels and maritime surveillance aircraft conducting exercises focused on building up a picture of what was happening across the broader expanse of ocean.

Sama Sama’s varied programme spanned not only warfighting tactics (above, on and below the waves), but also a variety of ‘policing’ and humanitarian training activities for participating nations.

For a boarding exercise Spey turned onto a rogue fishing vessel, whose motley crew were smuggling contraband and culminated in an inevitable boarding, search and arrest by a combined US Navy and Philippines Navy Special Ops Boarding Team.

Later in the exercise, the Japanese JS Akebono, was the hub for a major search-and-rescue exercise which challenged Spey, with the help of HMCS Vancouver’s CH-148 Cyclone helicopter, to search and recover an ‘exercise survivor’ played by a floating ‘dummy’ in the seas off the Philippines.

“It was really impressive seeing such a large number of allied warships. It’s not every day that we get to see such a gathering of ships from so many different navies come together,” said warfare specialist Able Seaman Alfie Williams.

In tandem with her sister ship HMS Tamar, Spey is one half of two Offshore Patrol Vessels now into their third year of operating around Indo-Pacific, reinvigorating the Royal Navy’s – and UK’s – presence in a region of key importance to our economic well-being and security.

Both vessels spend most of their time operating independently or with one or two other ships from the UK’s many partners and nations in regions, so Lieutenant Hayden Kyle-Davidson, HMS Spey’s Operations Officer, larger-scale workouts like Sama Sama were seized upon by the crew.

“For the crew of HMS Spey, the opportunity to return to Exercise Sama Sama for a second consecutive year has provided a chance to further integrate with a significant number of other nations whilst continuing to develop our great working relationship with the Philippine Navy alongside the many other allies and partners participating in the exercise.”

Participating assets included the cargo/ammunition ship USNS Wally Schirra, US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Dewey, a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, Philippine frigate BRP Antonio Luna, Japanese destroyer JS Akebono and Canadian frigate HMCS Vancouver. Personnel from Australia, France and Malaysia also took part in Sama Sama 23, making it the largest in its seven-year history.

“This marks the second year of HMS Spey’s participation in Exercise Sama Sama. We are grateful for the bonds of friendship with the Philippine Navy that have grown stronger this year during Sama Sama,” said Commander Matthew Court, Spey’s Commanding Officer.

“The joint exercises in company with Antonio Luna, Vancouver, Akebono and Dewey, have been rewarding and further demonstrate what can be achieved with collaboration and partnership.

“Both HMS Spey and Tamar represent the U.K.’s commitment to our persistent regional engagement, and strength of our defence and security cooperation within the Indo-Asia Pacific region".

This marks the second year of HMS Spey’s participation in Exercise Sama Sama. We are grateful for the bonds of friendship with the Philippine Navy that have grown stronger this year during Sama Sama.

Commander Matthew Court