Royal Navy duo in multinational anti-sub exercise

HMS West­min­ster and a Trafal­gar Class sub­ma­rine led the Roy­al Navy’s involve­ment in Exer­cise Ara­bi­an Shark, a test of coali­tion navies to deal with sub­marines in the Gulf of Oman.

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A Trafal­gar Class sub­ma­rine sur­faces off HMS Westminster’s star­board side dur­ing Exer­cise Ara­bi­an Shark 2012 [Pic­ture: Lead­ing Air­man (Pho­tog­ra­ph­er) Chris Mum­by, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The British duo joined war­ships from the USA, Sau­di Ara­bia and Pak­istan — includ­ing an old Roy­al Navy favourite — for the war games in the Gulf of Oman.

In the seem­ing­ly ever-present haze of the Gulf region, a Trafal­gar Class sub­ma­rine (T-boat) and an approx­i­mate Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, USS Pitts­burgh, led a sev­en-strong naval task group as the exer­cise drew to a close.

Exer­cise Ara­bi­an Shark 2012 is the lat­est in a reg­u­lar series of anti-sub­ma­rine exer­cis­es held in the Mid­dle East region for the past decade.

As well as the T-boat and the US Los Ange­les Class nuclear sub­ma­rine, the Roy­al Navy com­mit­ted frigate HMS West­min­ster to Ara­bi­an Shark, the Amer­i­cans pro­vid­ed destroy­er USS Sterett, the Saud­is corvettes Hit­teen and Badr, and, from Pak­istan, a blast from the past for the Roy­al Navy par­tic­i­pants: PNS Badr — per­haps bet­ter known as the for­mer Type 21 frigate HMS Alacrity.

For West­min­ster, rough­ly halfway through her east of Suez deploy­ment, Ara­bi­an Shark was a chance for her to get back to her rai­son d’être — fresh from counter-pira­cy oper­a­tions and the suc­cess of a £14m drugs bust.

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The Portsmouth-based ‘cap­i­tal ship’ and her twelve Type 23 frigate sis­ters were designed in the late 1980s to hunt Sovi­et sub­marines in the North Atlantic.

Since then the world has changed, as has the tech­nol­o­gy: West­min­ster has the best sub­ma­rine-hunt­ing heli­copter in the world, an 829 Naval Air Squadron Mer­lin, and the world’s best sub­ma­rine-detec­tion equip­ment in the form of the Sonar 2087 towed array sys­tem.

So, dur­ing the exer­cise, the sub­marines tried to hunt and ‘kill’ the war­ships, and the sur­face forces did like­wise with the sub­marines.

The main aims of the exer­cise were to strength­en mil­i­tary rela­tion­ships and improve the war-fight­ing tech­niques of all the navies involved.

Lieu­tenant Thom Hobbs, Westminster’s Prin­ci­pal War­fare Offi­cer (Under­wa­ter), said:

“Ara­bi­an Shark was a sig­nif­i­cant inter­na­tion­al exer­cise allow­ing for the strong bonds between the par­tic­i­pat­ing nations to be rein­forced.

“We are work­ing togeth­er to ensure secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty at sea.”

The exer­cise was hailed a resound­ing suc­cess, with all of the units involved gain­ing valu­able train­ing with a vari­ety of oth­er nations’ units in a strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant area of the world.

With Ara­bi­an Shark con­clud­ed, the Roy­al Navy T-boat and USS Pitts­burgh made a rare appear­ance on the sur­face of a won­der­ful­ly-calm Ara­bi­an Sea for the ever-pop­u­lar task group pho­to­graph.

HMS West­min­ster has now resumed her wider mar­itime secu­ri­ty role in the Indi­an Ocean. Since leav­ing Portsmouth in Jan­u­ary, she has most­ly been employed as part of the 25-nation Com­bined Mar­itime Forces counter-pira­cy task force, dis­rupt­ing pirate activ­i­ty and mak­ing the region safer for the mer­chant ship­ping that pass­es through it.

West­min­ster is due back in the Solent in August 2012.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK