Royal Navy Lieutenants Tim Dunning and John Phillips have joined the hunt for a US nuclear boat off the coast of Sicily as part of NATO’s biggest ever Mediterranean anti-submarine exercise, dubbed Dynamic Manta.
Aided by the USS John Warner, a Virginia-class hunter-killer skimming the surface of the Ionian Sea, the Royal Navy Wildcat crew from HMS Duncan took to the skies to commence its search. In all, some 5,000 military personnel – among them 300 Britons – from across the globe will take part in the fortnight-long test of air, sea and underwater expertise.
HMS Duncan and the NATO task group she leads account for the bulk of the surface ships. As an air defence destroyer Duncan has limited submarine hunting abilities however, though her Wildcat helicopter is able to strike at a submarine with Sting Ray torpedoes. Two Merlins from 814 and 829 Naval Air Squadrons will also remain on-hand for the duration of Dynamic Manta.
Missions may last up to five hours in total, with Petty Officer Elton Dobson and his colleagues holding a ‘sonobuoy party’ ahead of each operation – preparing the hi-tech listening devices which will be dropped down tubes to the rear of the Merlin.
Once in the water, these devices will passively listen for the sound of submarine movement or actively seek them out, sending sound through the ocean in the hopes of it bouncing back after striking something metallic – a process known as ‘pinging’.
For a more precise location, the Merlin lowers or ‘dips’ its sonar from beneath the fuselage, hovering and listening for any sign of movement.
There are six boats for the Merlins and Wildcat to seek out, from conventional submarines such as the Spanish Mistral to nuclear powered equivalents like the USS John Warner.
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