Westminster and Triumph bare their teeth in Middle East exercise
8 May 2012

HMS Westminster and hunter-killer HMS Triumph led the Royal Navy’s involvement in Exercise Arabian Shark, a test of Coalition navies to deal with submarines in the Arabian Sea.

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.

Pictures: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tim D. Godbee, US Navy, and LA(Phot) Chris Mumby, HMS Westminster

IN THE seemingly ever-present haze in the Gulf region, an American P3C Orion of Patrol Squadron 26 flies over seven warships and submarines mustered in the Arabian Sea.

On the right of the picture HMS Westminster turns to port while one of two Saudi corvettes in the formation (HMS Hitteen and Badr) turns away.

Hunter-killer submarines USS Pittsburgh (left) and HMS Triumph lead the way, ahead of Arleigh-Burke destroyer USS Sterett, while on the left PNS Badr – better known to many Brits as HMS Alacrity before she was sold to Pakistan two decades ago – and a second Saudi corvette turn away.

HMS Westminster’s Merlin hovers ahead of HMS Triumph (on the left) and the USS Pittsburgh, while destroyer USS Sterett – part of the Abraham Lincoln’s carrier strike group – follows the two boats.

For Westminster, roughly half-way through her east of Suez, 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.

The Portsmouth-based ‘capital ship’ and her 12 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-hunting sonar (2087).

So let the games begin as the hunter-killers tried to hunt and kill the warships… and the surface forces did likewise in search of the submarines.

Hunter and hunted… or is it the other way around? The waters of the Arabian Sea lap over the bow of the T-boat with HMS Westminster in the background

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

“Arabian Shark was a significant international exercise allowing for the strong bonds between the participating nations to be reinforced,” said Lt Thom Hobbs, Westminster’s Principal Warfare Officer (Underwater).

“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.

HMS Westminster escorts the two hunter-killers on the surface.

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

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 Force counter-piracy task force, disrupting pirate activity and making the region safer for the vital merchant shipping that passes through the region.

She’s due back in the Solent in August.