HMS Dragon swapped tracking aircraft for submarine hunting as she joined three American destroyers searching for HMS Talent in the Mediterranean.
The Type 45 and her American cousins did their utmost to set up an ‘underwater barrier’ to halt the hunter-killer’s progress.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins, RN Photographer of the Year
DRAGON’S got Talent.
Or, more likely, Talent’s got Dragon because the destroyer isn’t designed to hunt submarines, whereas a boat views anything which floats as a target.
The Portsmouth-based Type 45 nevertheless gave it a go during a large-scale anti-submarine exercise involving three American destroyers in the Med, with the Royal Navy’s hunter-killer boat as their prey.
The aim of the four surface ships – Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Gravely, Stout and Barry completed the quartet – was to block HMS Talent’s progress through the Med during a 12-hour game between hunter and hunted.
Given Dragon’s raison d’être of shielding a task group against air attack – which she’s recently practised working with RAF Typhoons in the eastern Mediterranean – Talent proved to be an elusive adversary.
The hunt was aided by the British destroyer’s own 815 Naval Air Squadron Lynx and Seahawks from the American trio, which used their dipping sonars to look for the Trafalgar-class submarine ahead of her anticipated route.
“We did not know where the submarine was, but we knew where they wanted to go,” explained Lt Luqman Haskett, who works in the Stout’s Combat Information Center – the US equivalent of a Royal Navy warship’s operations room.
“So the goal was to try and track them and prevent them from reaching their desired location.”
Ahead of the exercise, several crew from Talent and Dragon traded places to gain an insight into the different ways the units hunt each other down.
Stuart Williams (left) host his submariner brother Michael aboard HMS Dragon
Twenty-five-year-old ET(MESM) Michael Williams took the opportunity to leave the cramped confines of the T-boat to tour the more spacious surroundings of Dragon, hosted by his brother LET(WE) Stuart Williams, whom he hadn’t seen in over eight months.
“This is my first operational patrol and it has been an unexpected surprise to be able to get together with Stuart.
“As a lower level engineer working six hours on and six off, the space to work in on board Talent is very limited and a real challenge. There is so much more room on Dragon to work,” said the submariner, who joined the Service just 14 months ago.
“I think it’s fair to say that the living conditions are more comfortable onboard HMS Dragon but the food on board HMS Talent wins that contest.”
Dragon's Lynx, callsign Flametrap, makes a low pass of Talent. Picture: US Navy
Heading in the opposite direction for a couple of days in a big black tube was 29-year-old LET(ME) David Cantrell.
“It was a real eye opener for me. The living conditions were cramped but comfortable – with fantastic food,” he said.
“The working routines are particular to operating a submarine and everyone onboard was very professional in their approach and application to everything they did.
“The biggest surprise for me was how stable Talent was once dived – you get used to the motion of the sea aboard ship, but once underwater there wasn’t a hint of movement.”
Dragon is due home in Portsmouth next month, bringing to an end her eight-month maiden deployment, while the Devonport-based boat remains on patrol.