HMS Ramsey meets US Blackhawk minehunter helicopters
Sailors from Faslane-based HMS Ramsey have visited their American minehunting counterparts to see how they do their business ahead of a US-UK-French exercise in the Gulf.
The Royal Navy mine disposal experts joined Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 – known as the Blackhawks – in Bahrain to see their giant Sea Dragon helicopters find and destroy mines. Despite the fact that Ramsey is a ship and the MH53 Sea Dragon is a helicopter, there are
similarities in the way the two Gulf-based units can deal with explosive devices. Both launch Seafox – a small robot submarine which is a couple of metres long, powered by batteries which drive four small propellers and which carry a camera, searchlight and, when required, a 1.5kg explosive charge – to find and destroy underwater devices.
The Ramsey team were keen to see how the Blackhawks used Seafox, and the American team likewise – particularly as the Royal Navy has front-line experience of using it off the coast of Libya in 2011.
“We frequently operate in the same area as the mine clearance helicopters, but we’ve never had the opportunity to see how they operate,” said HMS Ramsey’s Leading Seaman (Mine Warfare) Graeme Reid. HMS Ramsey can also put her specialist explosive ordnance divers in the water to dispose of mines.
As for the Blackhawks, they can trawl a cutting wire behind their helicopters to scythe mines from their tethers before divers jump in to neutralise the explosives. Their helicopters can also tow a hydrofoil special sled which creates a magnetic field to trigger mines. Their MH53 is the largest helicopter in the Western World – one third as large again as the Fleet Air Arm’s largest helicopter, the Merlin.
The two units worked together during the large-scale IMCMEX exercise this spring and are now doing the same on another international work-out called Artemis Trident, albeit on a smaller scale with British, American and French minehunters, plus mine clearance teams for the week-long Artemis Trident.
The Royal Navy maintains a permanent minehunting presence in Bahrain: two Sandown-class ships (HMS Ramsey and Shoreham), two Hunt-class (Quorn and Atherstone), plus Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Cardigan Bay and the mine warfare battle staff.