HMS Westminster was invited to work alongside the most powerful naval formation on the Seven Seas – an American carrier strike group – as it sailed through the Arabian Sea.
The Portsmouth-based frigate joined the USS Abraham Lincoln for anti-submarine exercises, before serving as the 'plane guard' for the carrier as she launched and recovered her aircraft.
Pictures: MC3 Christina Naranjo, US Navy and ET(WE) Katie Shaw, HMS Westminster
IS it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s Super Hornets. Two of them. Flying high over the USS Abraham Lincoln. (Yes we know they’re very hard to make out…)
And in the foreground, Her Majesty’s Ship Westminster, which joined forces with Carrier Strike Group Nine somewhere in the Arabian Sea.
‘Abe’ is the flagship of said group – one of 11 in the US Navy’s arsenal, each comprising one carrier, one cruiser, two destroyers, one hunter-killer submarine and a support ship, plus an air group of more than 60 jets, helicopters and pistol-engined aircraft. Combined it’s the most potent formation on the Seven Seas.
A Hawkeye airborne early-warning plane powers away from the Abraham Lincoln after being catapulted off the flight deck
And the Portsmouth-based frigate was invited to join it for an anti-submarine exercise.
Westminster was charged with protecting the 100,000-tonne leviathan using the combination of her Sonar 2087 – widely regarded as the best submarine-hunting sonar in the world – and Merlin helicopter – widely regarded as the best submarine-hunting helicopter in the world – to track down, and prosecute, the foe in the form of a Los Angeles-class submarine.
Having proved her anti-submarine warfare credentials – and received praise from the US group’s senior commanders – the ‘capital ship’ was asked to perform the challenging task of plane guard.
Westminster acts as plane guard to Abe's port
That means sailing relatively close in company with a carrier, with sea boats at the ready to launch in case an aircraft landing or taking off is forced to ditch.
“It’s been an honour to be able to exercise with the USS Abraham Lincoln and her battle group and, specifically, to be invited to take the role of plane guard,” said Westminster’s Commanding Officer Capt Nick Hine.
His ship is currently deployed to the Indian Ocean on a wide-ranging maritime security mission, keeping the sea lanes open and disrupting pirate activity while operating as part of the 25-Nation Combined Maritime Force.
Westminster’s away from Portsmouth until August.