Anti-submarine warfare may not be the usual forte for a destroyer – an air defence warship – but HMS Dragon snapped up the chance to work alongside nuclear submarine HMS Talent.
As both were working in the Eastern Mediterranean at the same time, the units practised advanced underwater training with HMS Dragon tasked with hunting Talent down.
The Devonport-based submarine proved an elusive and very capable adversary for HMS Dragon, testing her underwater sensors that are as capable in that domain as her more visible radars are that sweep the skies for air threats.
The vessels were then joined by units from the US 6th Fleet – the USS Gravely, Stout and Barry with their SH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters which can ‘dip’ ahead of the force, using their sonars to try and find nearby submarines.
Ahead of the exercise, several personnel from Talent and Dragon had swapped places to gain an insight into the different ways the units hunt each other down.
Among those was Marine Engineer Submariner (MESM) Michael Williams (25) from Plymouth. What was more poignant was the fact that onboard HMS DRAGON to host him was his brother, Leading Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineering) Stuart Williams, who he hadn’t seen in over eight months.
MESM Williams said: “Having joined up in August 2012 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.
“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.”
Leading Engineering Technician (Marine Engineer) David Cantrell (29) of Portsmouth spent two days on board the submarine.
He said: “It was a real eye opener for me. The living conditions were cramped but comfortable with fantastic food. 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 the platform was once dived, you get used to the motion of the sea onboard ship but once underwater there wasn’t a hint of movement onboard the submarine.”