HMS Dragon gave an impromptu fire display off Cyprus as her Lynx helicopter tested her decoy system, sending flares spiralling out above the Type 45.
After five months east of Suez, the destroyer has shifted her efforts to the eastern Mediterranean at a time of increased tension in the region.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins, HMS Dragon
AUSTRALIA, you can keep your fireworks and light show over Sydney Harbour – we’ve got a Type 45, Lynx Mk8 and a stunning display of flares.
Testing its defensive aid suite above HMS Dragon is the destroyer’s helicopter, callsign Flametrap, pumping out 60 flares over the Portsmouth-based warship in the eastern Mediterranean.
After the bulk of the destroyer’s maiden deployment to the Gulf, the fourth of Britain’s six Type 45 air defence destroyers, has been working off Cyprus and in the eastern Med at a time of heightened tensions in the wider region.
As part of that new mission, the 815 Naval Air Squadron Lynx fired off her flares, installed to decoy incoming heat-seeking missiles – fired either by other aircraft, or ground-based threats such as shoulder-launched MANPADS (small hand-held surface-to-air missiles) – drawing them away from the helicopter’s engines on to a much hotter target.
Capturing the moment, the Royal Navy’s Photographer of the Year, LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins, who was in one of Dragon’s sea boats a safe distance away from ship and Lynx.
“There are times when you take plenty of pictures and have very little to show for them,” he said.
“The images taken that night were as a result of some careful planning and good fortune. What is rewarding for me is that the crew are pleased with the picture because it represents the capability that HMS Dragon delivers on a daily basis.”
To help her attune to her Mediterranean mission, Dragon has been working with Typhoon jets from 11 Squadron and Boeing E3-Ds airborne early warning aircraft from 8 Squadron.
Keeping Dragon on task has been made much easier with logistical support provided by 54 Squadron 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, who operate landing craft from British bases in Cyprus.
Their boats ferried out vital stores, food and – crucial for morale – mail.
An RAF Typhoon makes a low pass of Dragon off Limassol
“It has been impressive to see all of the team pull together to help support HMS Dragon on operations – be they from the RAF or the Army’s very own mariners,” said Dragon’s logistics officer Lt Cdr Andy Bray.
“Working together has meant that we can stay at sea, on task, for longer and this has helped directly the ship’s company to do our job.
“A simple task like delivering operational mail, fresh provisions and vital spares, with novel approaches to embarkation, cannot be understated, and improves the lives of all Dragon’s sailors.”