Sicilian Sub-hunt is on for Royal Navy Aviators
Royal Navy helicopters are currently flying off the coast of Sicily in a bid to find the underwater enemy.
Helicopter crews from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose will be ‘on the prowl’ for the next week searching for submarines in NATO’s largest Mediterranean Anti-Submarine Exercise: Exercise Dynamic Manta 2018.
The aircrew and helicopters arrived in Catania yesterday afternoon, and after a quick re-role of their versatile Maritime Merlin Mk2 helicopters, they went straight into their first mission in the early hours of this morning; hunting for a Spanish submarine laying in wait for a multi-national task group trying to transit through the Mediterranean.
Back at their home base in Cornwall, the crews hone their skills every day so that they are always ready to protect Royal Navy ships from attack above, on and below the surface of the sea. Flying in their Merlin Mk2 helicopters (arguably the best submarine-hunting helicopter in the world), the aircrew will use this exercise to work with other nations and hone their anti-submarine warfare skills. They are determined that their training, and the sub-hunting kit onboard the Merlin, will help them to find all six NATO submarines that are hiding in the deep waters around Sicily.
Joining colleagues, who have set up a temporary home at Stazione Elicotterri Catania (an Italian Naval Air Station which also flies maritime Merlins), the crews from 814 and 829 Naval Air Squadrons flew almost 1400 miles across Europe - a three day journey which has made them hungry for the hunt!
Detachment Commander, Lt Cdr Richard ‘Whisky’ Walker is looking forward to the mission, as the aircraft arrived he said: “After a long transit from RNAS Culdrose, our Merlin helicopters have arrived in Catalina and are ready to take part in Exercise Dynamic Manta 2018. Our main role is to hunt for the six NATO submarines during our time here, working alongside other aircraft to find them.”
“Whilst we are here in Sicily, it will be an intensive flying programme for us. Our submarine hunt will start immediately. Engineers are now busy in the hangar fitting all of the role equipment that enables us to hunt for submarines, including dipping sonar, an infra-red camera and various other kit. Then we will hand over to further crews to continue to mission.”
During the exercise, the Royal Navy aviators will both protect and attack the NATO submarines, and work with the helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft and ships of ten other nations. They will all operate in the shadow of Mount Etna, which erupted during the 2017 exercise.
“It is important for aircrews from various NATO nations’ to come and train together in this truly challenging environment,” explained Greece’s Commodore Andreas Vettos, who is overseeing the aerial element of the exercise.
“I’m convinced that the benefit for all participating nations will be immense and will assist in preparing our aircrews for future tasks and operations.”