NAVY NEWS, JUNE 2009 3
Tales of the Arabian nights
BURST of red tracer races into the Arabian night as the machine guns of
HMS Portland blaze away.
This is Exercise Khunjar Hadd, somewhere off the north coast of Oman.
Early this year, the good folk of Her Majesty’s Ship Portland enjoyed war games run by the
Pakistanis, Exercise Aman.
From Aman to Oman... Now the frigate has been exercising on the opposite side of the Arabian
Sea with Allied navies.
Aman means ‘peace’ in Urdu. The Omanis had a rather more warlike name for their exercises,
Khunjar Hadd – sharp dagger.
Indeed there was little peaceful about the four days of Khunjar Hadd. It began with war, ended
with war, and there was a little war in between.
Organisers crammed the whole gamut of surface operations in Sharp Dagger – boarding
parties, gunnery serials, air defence, navigation of mine-swept channels, replenishment at sea,
basically think ‘Thursday War’ but run over four days, not one. The Omani Air Force were also
keen to test their Super Lynx helicopters at sea.
Despite such a demanding schedule, key to the exercise was the ability to ‘mix and match’
sailors throughout the force, allowing them to spend a day with one of their Allies to see how
they do things.
As in every other walk of life, nothing quite compensates for the personal touch.
“There’s nothing better in helping an exercise work so well as to actually meet and work with
our partners,” said Lt Cdr Rob Crabbe, Portland’s operations offi cer. “This exercise was superb
for allowing us to do that.”
Sharp Dagger was run out of the Omani naval base at Wudam, 75 miles along the coast from
the capital Muscat.
Naval bases are not renowned for their beauty. Luckily for Portland’s sailors, they enjoyed their
down time in the capital.
Muscat is probably the most lush city in the Gulf, thanks to its location on the coast of the
Lush or not, it’s still redders even in mid-spring. 40˚C of redders, as Portland’s marine
It was their lot to change one of Portland’s Rolls-Royce Spey gas turbines, helped by
specialists fl own out from the UK and Muscat dockyard workers . It took six days in all, but
the job was done.
Those not involved in the engine change headed off on adventurous training
expeditions – diving, mountain biking, abseiling and kayaking – while the rugby team
challenged an ex-pat side to a game (and narrowly lost 27-22).
After all that hard work it was only fair the sailors were rewarded… with a trip to
Plenty of sailors have been promised trips there, few have been. Sadly, it
wasn’t the mythical Himalayan utopia… but it was a land fl owing with beer,
buffets (do buffets fl ow? – Ed), comedy and music.
The ship’s company were treated to an evening’s entertainment at the
fi ve-star Shangri-La hotel courtesy of Combined Services Entertainment
(who fl y around the globe putting on shows for ‘our boys and girls’).
They laid on top-notch food, stand-up comedians, dancers and a live
band to allow the sailors to really let their hair down.
And then it was back to chasing pirates. The frigate is currently
on patrol in the Gulf of Aden working with other navies to clamp
down on illegal activity, in particular Somali pirates and drug
picture: la(phot) alex cave, frpu east
003_NN_June.indd 1 21/5/09 13:21:58
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