Sandown Class mine countermeasures vessel HMS Blyth recently took part in a NATO exercise in the Bay of Izmir in Turkey, successfully locating dummy mines while coming under simulated attack.
The Faslane-based minehunter is currently the command platform for Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2, leading warships from Turkey, Greece, Italy and Germany through several weeks of maritime security operations and exercises.
The most recent exercise saw Blyth use both her ship’s divers and the advanced Seafox mine disposal system to detect drill mines laid in her area of operations. At the same time the task group vessels had to respond to simulated attacks by small boats, fast jets and helicopters.
Commanding Officer of HMS Blyth, Commander Tim Davey, said:
The exercise saw Blyth prove her capability in mine detection and disposal as well as training the ship’s force protection teams against a variety of realistic simulated threats. Working closely with the Turkish Navy, the exercise provided us with a great opportunity to train my team and maintain our core skills.
Helping to assist HMS Blyth in her role as command platform are two NATO staff officers from the Greek and Turkish navies who are embarked on board the ship, working closely with the crew to support the planning and execution of the ship’s tasking.
The exercise is the latest challenge in a demanding deployment for the sophisticated minehunter. Before arriving in Turkish waters she found herself at the centre of a major salvage exercise in the Aegean Sea. Involving a simulated fire and flood on board, the scenario was designed to draw resources and personnel from other task group ships and test their responses:
The assistance at sea exercise was a great opportunity for the four vessels in the task group to work together in a high-pressure situation,
said Lieutenant Commander Charlie Noonan, Blyth’s Executive Officer, who co-ordinates the response in the event of an on board emergency.
In the end, the response from all the teams was excellent and it proved the close bonding and high levels of co-operation that exist among the sailors.
The emergency exercise finished with a German firefighting team re-entering a smoke-filled compartment, a Turkish first aid team dealing with simulated casualties, and an Italian damage control team conducting dummy repairs to ‘flooded’ compartments.
The crew of HMS Blyth are now looking forward to three weeks of maritime security operations in the eastern Mediterranean before saying farewell to their NATO colleagues and embarking on the 3,000-mile (4,800km) journey home to Scotland in early December.
During her time with the task group, Blyth has successfully conducted multiple exercises and training all over the Mediterranean, including important maritime security operations and a minehunting exercise in the Black Sea:
The deployment has been both challenging and highly rewarding,
commented Lieutenant Hamish Maxwell, HMS Blyth’s Navigating Officer.
Since arriving in the region in early July, the crew has done an excellent job and, although we will miss our NATO friends, it is a good feeling to be approaching the end of our tour. We are looking forward to the return trip back to the UK with fingers crossed for good weather in the Bay of Biscay.