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Royal Navy frigate returns home after North Atlantic operations

14 August 2023
A Royal Navy frigate returned home on Sunday after spending more than half of 2023 at sea operating across the Arctic, Baltic and the North Atlantic.

HMS Northumberland has sailed nearly the distance around the world, racking up 23,043 miles on the high seas since the start of the year, locating Russian units and protecting UK waters.

The Type 23 frigate returns to Plymouth having also operated with NATO allies on submarine-hunting exercises in the North Atlantic, patrolled the High North and operated with the world’s largest warship, the US Navy’s imposing aircraft carrier the USS Gerald R Ford, in the Arctic Circle. 

Commander Will Edwards-Bannon, Northumberland’s Commanding Officer, said: “I have once again been profoundly impressed by the selfless commitment and tactical excellence that my ship’s company has demonstrated across the length and breadth of our operating area, from the Atlantic to the Arctic and the Barents to the Baltic. 

“Everyone on board can look back on this successful deployment with pride in our collective achievements: from once again leading task group operations in the Arctic Circle alongside close allies, to marking the coronation of His Majesty The King while we were in Iceland. 

“I am hugely grateful for the support of all our friends and families who enable us to do our important work for the Nation and it is a great pleasure to see so many of them here to welcome Northumberland and her fantastic ship’s company home today.”

Northumberland spent three quarters of her deployed time on concerted operations, but also managed to visit Denmark, Iceland, and Norway in between tasking. 

Her 200 sailors chomped their way through 82,500 meals – including precisely 40,320 sausages and around 8,000 eggs, with the ship’s galley serving up meals no matter how rough the seas.

In the waters between Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland, Northumberland, alongside tanker RFA Tideforce and Merlin helicopters of 814 Naval Air Squadron, took part in Exercise Dynamic Mongoose, NATO’s premier cold water anti-submarine warfare exercise – training designed to strengthen allies’ ability to track and destroy threats lurking beneath the surface.

The frigate followed that up by tracking Russian warships, Vice-Admiral Kulakov and Admiral Levchenko, as they sailed in waters close to the UK. 

In Reykjavik in Iceland, Northumberland marked His Majesty The King’s Coronation, hosting sailors from allied warships for a flight deck ‘street party’ and supporting efforts at the British embassy.

Petty Officer Vucago ‘Vinny’ Bainitabua, said: “I’m proud to look back and when people ask: ‘where were you for the King’s Coronation?’ I can say: I was deployed on operations with HMS Northumberland in Reykjavik, hosting our NATO allies. It’s definitely one to remember.”

Northumberland, Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender and tanker RFA Tideforce joined the US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 12, whose flagship is the USS Gerald R Ford, training with the ship as she continued her Atlantic Ocean deployment.

The frigate then led an allied task group in the High North, demonstrating the UK’s commitment to supporting and collaborating with Arctic partners, as well as enhancing the Royal Navy’s long history of operating in the region. 

Northumberland was joined by RFA Tideforce, Norwegian frigate HNoMS Otto Sverdrup and United States Navy (USN) destroyer USS Thomas Hudner.

The crew did manage to get some down time with a myriad of self-generated entertainment such as raffles, quizzes, and race nights, raising money for the frigate’s favourite charities and welfare fund, plus Northumberland’s first Pride event at sea.  

“This has been my first deployment with the Royal Navy and it has been a challenging but highly rewarding experience, from operating in the Arctic Circle, to escorting the world’s largest warship,” said Able Seaman Nathan Mounsey, an underwater warfare specialist. 

“However, organising, planning and executing Northumberland’s first ever Pride was fantastic and my personal highlight from the deployment.”

Joining the ship’s company was a flight from 814 Naval Air Squadron, nicknamed The Flying Tigers, which operated the Merlin Mk2 submarine-hunting helicopter. Supported by ten engineers, the four aircrew of Mohawk Flight flew more than 160 hours on ASW sorties during the deployment.

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