HMS Westminster and RFA Diligence Participate in Escort Exercise
HMS Westminster worked alongside ships from the Royal Bahrain Naval Force, the United States ships (USS) Carney and Chinook and two US Sea Hawk helicopters to practise escorting a cargo ship played by Forward Repair Ship RFA Diligence.
A ship that carries a valuable cargo may need to be protected as she travels through an area where there is a heightened security risk from terrorist or pirate attacks for example.
These journeys can occur all over the world but are most likely to be needed through certain areas where ships have little room to move and are at their most vulnerable such as the Strait of Hormuz or the Bab al Mandeb Strait.
HMS Westminster’s sister ship HMS Montrose is currently on escorting duties as she assists with the international effort to remove chemical stocks from Syria to stop them being used in weapons.
The frigate is working alongside Danish, Norwegian, Russian and Chinese warships to provide maritime force protection in support of the Danish and Norwegian vessels tasked with transporting the chemicals for destruction.
Captain Hugh Beard, Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster, said: “Being able to conduct numerous training exercises with our allies ensures that we remain ready in all respects for whatever may be required of us.
“It also means we can develop the relationship with our allies and enhance our ability to work alongside one another professionally and effectively.”
Captain Peter Selby, the Commanding Officer of Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Diligence said:
“The exercise maintains the ability of the Coalition Maritime Forces to protect ships carrying valuable cargo.
“I feel reassured that should I need protection it will be provided by the Naval forces available to the coalition and would be successful.”
The ships are all working in the Gulf as part of the Combined Maritime Force’s (CMF) Combined Task Force (CTF) 152 which works closely with partner nations to provide security at sea in the Gulf region.
A fast paced exercise, Falcon Defender gave the sailors on board the Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate the chance to flex their seamanship skills under the pressure of escorting a ship vulnerable to attack.
Lieutenant Rob Couzens the Navigating Officer on board HMS Westminster, said: “It was quite a sight watching all these vessels sailing together at speed and quite inspiring to see our allies working alongside us so well.”
HMS Westminster’s Able Seaman Specialist Jack Vant, part of the ship’s Force Protection team, added: “With Seahawks buzzing overhead and US Navy ships roaring past, this was by far the most exciting and realistic exercise I have seen so far this deployment. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
After the exercise it was back to business for HMS Westminster as she returned to Maritime Security Operations (MSO) under the command of CTF 152.
CTF 152 is currently led by the US and is one of three task forces commanded by CMF, a multinational naval partnership of 30 nations, which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 2.5 million square miles of international waters, which includes some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
UK Royalnavy, February 6, 2014