CHF participates in the NATO amphibious Exercise Dogu Akdeniz off the Turkish Coast
HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship and also Flagship for the Commander of one of NATO’s Standing Maritime Groups in the Mediterranean (SNMG2) set sail from the Turkish port of Aksaz to participate in the sea borne element of Exercise Dogu Akdeniz.
This major Turkish led exercise has been held every year since 1987 and is intended to further the ability of participating nations to interoperate in littoral waters and includes the conduct of amphibious operations. This year saw active participation from 5 NATO nations with observers from a further 11 countries including Pakistan, Algeria and Qatar. HMS Ocean assumed the role of Flagship for the Commander SNMG2 on 29 October and will retain this duty until the end of the year.
Exercise Dogu Akdeniz started in the port of Aksaz 7 November and culminated on 16 November. The exercise involved 52 surface and airborne platforms from the UK, US, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria exercising Anti Surface Warfare (ASuW), Anti Air Warfare (AAW) and Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW); there was also a dedicated Turkish and UK phase of the exercise designed to simulate a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) scenario using amphibious shipping and air assets from both countries. The fact that HMS Ocean is herself a large and highly capable amphibious ship with CHF Wildcat and Merlin onboard from 847 NAS and 845 NAS allowed her to make a significant contribution to the Exercise; additionally she hosted Royal Marines from Bravo Company 40 Commando, US Marines and naval aviation from 820 NAS.
Early tasking for CHF involved mixed day and night battle formation flying between 847 NAS Wildcat and 845 NAS Merlin Mk3. The Wildcat and Merlin Mk3 also conducted winch transfer serials with HMS Ocean’s LCVPs. In addition, a planned night training sortie was re-tasked at short notice to take a casualty to shore at Aksaz HLS.
During the HADR phase of the exercise CHF was able to contribute valuable experience gained during the recent OP Ruman. This was achieved through shared flying and cross-deck serials with Turkish aircraft and by having a CHF liaison officer on board the Turkish flagship the TCG Bayraktar.
Merlin Mk3 pilot, Lt Tom Richards Royal Navy, said: “The casualty evacuation and winch transfer serials were extremely challenging but immensely rewarding flying. Also be able to operate as one of several NATO participants allowed us to improve our interoperability with other nations; as demonstrated during the HADR phase as we shared the tasking with an SH-70 Sea Hawk and Cougar from the Turkish Navy and Air Force.”
Turkey is currently engaged in a significant amphibious capability uplift with a number of specialist ships under build or recently delivered; the exercise thus afforded the opportunity to demonstrate how CHF conducts amphibious operations and how Turkey and the UK might better interoperate within a NATO context in the future.
HMS Ocean’s appointment as the Flagship for NATO’s SNMG2 deployment is indicative of the UK’s strong and ongoing commitment to NATO as a key pillar of UK Defence and the collective defence of our allies.