HMS Middleton demonstrated her minehunting prowess during an exercise with the US Navy – finding a grand total of 13 dummy mines in the Gulf.
The two Allied navies worked hand-in-hand for ten days – just one important episode in a busy month for Bahrain-based Middleton
THIS dark grey beast working in tandem with HMS Middleton is a US Navy MH53E Sea Dragon.
And despite the trompe-l'œil of the photograph, the helicopter isn’t conduct a high-line transfer with the ship – the prelude to winching someone on or off the Bahrain-based minehunter – but is searching for dummy mines during a ten-day US-Royal Navy exercise in the Gulf.
As part of their regular practice at searching for mines in the warmer waters of the Arabian Gulf, the ship’s company worked alongside their coalition counterparts to hone their already well-tuned skills.
How well-tuned? Well, Middleton’s haul alone from the training was 13 replica mines – an impressive tally particularly as the temperature of the water can make it more difficult for the ship’s sonar to detect ordnance. The water weakens the returning signal so the mine warfare teams have to be more precise with their searches.
“The ability to work closely with other units – particularly from different nations – allows Middleton to be constantly ready to be deployed anywhere in the world whatever the scenario,” said Sub Lt Christopher Chew, the minehunter’s navigating officer.
Middleton's crew practise winch transfers with a US Navy Seahawk
His ship is one of four Royal Navy minehunters permanently stationed in the Gulf (Her Majesty’s Ships Ramsey, Quorn and Pembroke complete the quartet) and the skills they learn working in the shallow waters helped the personnel in Bangor and Brocklesby last year when they found and destroyed mines laid by Colonel Gaddafi's regime off the coast of Libya last year.
With over a week spent at sea for the exercise, HMS Middleton also took the opportunity to replenish her supplies. Bringing her alongside Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Lyme Bay – a manoeuvre known as ‘rafting up’ allowed the minehunter to take on fuel, ammunition and food without having to head back into harbour.
As well as exercising with the Americans, the ship has also visited Abu Dhabi to pay her respects to men who safeguarded the Gulf region more than half a century ago.
Commemorations in the emirate marked the 60th anniversary of the formation of the Trucial Scouts of Oman who provided protection for the then Trucial Oman – also known as the Trucial States –a British protectorate which eventually became today’s United Arab Emirates.
For 20 years, protection for the states was provided by the British-led Scouts, a paramilitary force which fought in several skirmishes and battles and subsequently laid the foundations for today’s UAE Armed Forces, as well as the country’s federal police.
“Meeting some of these fascinating men – some now in their 90s – shows the enduring nature and longevity of the UK’s commitment to the Gulf,” said Sub Lt Matthew Bryers, Middleton’s gunnery officer.
Back in the home base of Bahrain – where temperatures are now in the mid-20s Celsius – Middleton’s marine engineers toiled to replace one of the ship’s diesel generators.
After some considerable dismantling on board, its replacement new generator was craned into position in record time.
“The generators make up an integral part of the ship’s engineering plant so it’s important to make sure they are always in top form. However, replacing them isn’t the easiest job in the world,” said LET(ME) Daniel ‘Jude’ Law, the sailor in charge of the generators.
His team’s work means the ‘Mighty Midd’ will continue to carry out operations in the Gulf until later this year when she is due to head back to Portsmouth, home of the Hunt-class flotilla of minehunters.