News story

HMS Westminster tests sub-hunting skills

A Royal Navy warship deployed in the Mediterranean has been testing her skills in an anti-submarine warfare exercise with the Italian Navy.

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HMS Westminster (left) and Italian ship Francesco Mimbelli [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dan Rosenbaum, Crown copyright]
HMS Westminster (left) and Italian ship Francesco Mimbelli

HMS Westminster is working as part of the Navy’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) which is on an annual deployment to the Mediterranean and the Gulf to test the flexibility and capability of the force.

Part of their tasking includes working alongside NATO allies – and in Westminster’s case this came in the form of the Italian destroyer Francesco Mimbelli and submarine Salvatore Pelosi.

Taking turns to practise hunting for each other, the sailors from both ships and the submarine were put through their paces in an action-packed few days. As well as testing sensors and weapons skills, the exercise also tested the reactions of those on board.

There was also the chance for some of the sailors to experience life on board a partner nation’s vessel. From HMS Westminster, Medical Officer Lieutenant Moira McLellan spent 2 days on the Francesco Mimbelli.

Italian ship Francesco Mimbelli, HMS Westminster and Italian submarine Salvatore Pelosi
Italian ship Francesco Mimbelli, HMS Westminster and Italian submarine Salvatore Pelosi taking part in an exercise [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dan Rosenbaum, Crown copyright]

She said:

It was a very enjoyable visit and interesting to see the similarities in the day-to-day workings of both navies. However, the culinary differences were very apparent, with pizza being served on Mimbelli’s bridge at 10 in the morning.

Aside from the anti-submarine exercise, HMS Westminster has been busy undertaking a wide range of tasks including flying, gunnery and boarding as part of her Cougar deployment and also in preparation for operations further afield.

HMS Westminster is due to leave the Cougar force before the end of their deployment and take up station in the Gulf as one of the Royal Navy’s long-standing commitments to the region.

HMS Westminster's 30-millimetre gun
Smoke emanates from HMS Westminster's 30-millimetre gun after firing [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dan Rosenbaum, Crown copyright]

The Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster, Captain Hugh Beard, said:

The ship’s company of Westminster have been working hard as part of our Cougar 13 deployment and also in preparation for our future mission.

As a former submarine commanding officer, I am a poacher-turned-gamekeeper and I have really enjoyed my experience with the capabilities of Westminster to try to defeat the Italian submarine Pelosi.

The ships of Cougar 13 will operate in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Gulf and around the Horn of Africa.

A Royal Marine fast ropes from a Lynx helicopter
A Royal Marine from HMS Westminster fast ropes from a Lynx Mk8 helicopter [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dan Rosenbaum, Crown copyright]

This annual deployment involves exercising with partner nations and will show the UK Armed Forces’ capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world as part of the RFTG, which is being commanded by Commodore Paddy McAlpine from the fleet flagship HMS Bulwark.

The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, made up of ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, at 5 days’ notice to act in response to any contingency tasking including humanitarian disaster relief and international military intervention.

As well as HMS Westminster there are 3 other Royal Navy ships – HMS Bulwark, HMS Illustrious and HMS Montrose – taking part and all are being supported by 5 Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels.

Royal Marines conducting a boarding exercise
Royal Marines conducting a boarding exercise which involves searching people on the flight deck of HMS Westminster [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dan Rosenbaum, Crown copyright]
A member of HMS Westminster's gunnery team
A member of HMS Westminster's gunnery team fires his general purpose machine gun [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dan Rosenbaum, Crown copyright]
Members of the firefighting team
Members of the firefighting team on deck during an exercise [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dan Rosenbaum, Crown copyright]
Published 3 September 2013