The guns of HMS Dragon blazed for the first time as she completed gunnery trials on the eve of her maiden visit to Cardiff.
The latest Type 45 destroyer let loose with her main 4.5in gun and 30mm cannon at targets on the water and in the skies as she took another big step towards joining the front-line Fleet.
THAT’s what you want to see from Dragon. Fire and ire.
Having proven that she could fend off missile attack by testing her decoy systems, Britain’s latest Type 45 destroyer let loose her guns for six days as she completed her gunnery trials.
Her main 4.5in Kryten and two 30mm automatic cannons were both fired up as expert engineers from BAE Systems, whose firm built the Portsmouth-based warship, checked the weapons’ alignment.
Dragon’s 4.5in gun carried out shoots against towed surface targets and conducted Naval Fire Support – as so ably demonstrated by HMS Liverpool off the coast of Libya last year.
It's big. It's red. It floats...until you put a 4.5in shell through it. The killer tomato target is launched from the flight deck
The destroyer also put her killer tomato into the water – a large, bright orange, inflatable target launched from her flight deck.
The tomato was successfully sunk as a 40kg 4.5in warhead went straight through it.
Indeed, during the six-day shoot the main gun fired 290 such shells –all loaded by hand on to the guns feed-ring by the gun bay team.
“The gunnery trials proved the first real test for Dragon’s gun crews. There were a few teething problems with the gun testing our engineering skills to fix defects to allow the serials to be completed,” said 26-year-old CPO Daryl Pounder, the 4.5in maintainer.
“It also gave our newly-qualified captain of the gun-bay the opportunity to put into practice all the drills he had learnt on course.”
The 30mm automatic cannon is prepared for action
Next it was the turn of the 30mm gun crews. Again both the port and starboard guns fired against towed surface targets and more killer tomatoes.
The engagements against the towed airborne target were the pinnacle of the trials. Dragon’s gunnery teams tracked the foe – which was towed nearly a kilometre behind a Falcon aircraft – using her electro-optical sensors and laser range finders.
The destroyer’s gunnery computer processors calculated the target’s trajectory and produced the firing solution before a hail of 30mm shells was sent hurtling towards it.
The system proved to be so accurate that the target was hit and completely destroyed with only the third round fired. Fortunately the aircraft was able to deploy a ‘spare’ to allow the trials to be completed.
Dragon's forecastle is littered with empty shells as the gunnery team demonstrate
“The gunnery trials were a true test for the ship’s gunnery department with many different drills required to be conducted over a tight schedule,” said Dragon’s gunnery officer Lt Peter Meigh.
“With meticulous planning, teamwork and individual preparations and a bit of good weather I’m please to say we rose to the task and achieved a very satisfactory trial.
“Despite minor defects, the team fought through to achieve all the required serials, in the minimum amount of time.”
The gunnery trials came just ahead of the destroyer’s current high-profile first visit to Cardiff – and ahead of her formally be accepted into service, which is due to take place on April 27.