NAVY NEWS, MAY 2010
HEADING into the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf, HMS Atherstone follows a Qatari patrol ship, two RIBs, a Sea King and a merchantman as two weeks of naval exercises in the southern Gulf
reach their zenith.
Two RN minehunters made the short
trip from their base in Bahrain to Doha in Qatar (just 120 miles away) for war games involving three dozen nations. Her Majesty’s Ships Atherstone and Chiddingfold were
representatives at Exercise Ferocious Falcon.
The first week focused on mine
warfare, so it’s handy there were two most able practitioners available in the form of the RN vessels and in particular their Seafox mine disposal system. It was put to use, as were the two ships’ dive teams, locating dummy mines on the sea bed off the emirate.
The first week of Ferocious Falcon also saw a good deal of interaction between the Brits and local defence forces, police and coastguard to strengthen communications between the ships and their hosts. Then it was into Doha port for a weekend break in arguably the boom city in the region.
While there was some downtime (ie beachtime) for the two ship’s companies, there was also a little flying the flag.
stormed by security forces.
brought a notable lift to the spirits of the ship’s companies – Jack loves nothing more than to tell people what he does best,” said Atherstone’s Commanding Officer Lt Cdr Gordon Ruddock. Now we always say that you can never have too much falcon-related tomfoolery. The second week began with the key part of the war games: Exercise Predatory Falcon. Well, actually, the second week began with a shamal – the wind which blows down the Gulf sporadically bringing sandstorms and rough seas.
exercises on the oil platforms which pepper their country’s territorial waters, while a merchant ship was ‘hijacked’ in the approaches to Doha – then
That didn’t stop the climax of the Falcon The Qatari Armed Forces staged anti-piracy
from Doha English-Speaking School. They received guided tours of the Crazy A and Cheery Chid, got to grips with fire-fighting, saw Seafox and the diving kit, watched the mine disposal system in action (on video), sat in the captain’s chair and had a good look at the weaponry laid out on the foc’s’le. “Everyone had a good time and
The sisters hosted 56 children and six teachers
As Chiddingfold and Atherstone took up their supporting positions 200 yards abeam and astern of the merchant vessel with the Qatari Bashan- class patrol ship Al Deebel on the opposite beam, special forces were inserted by fast rope from a Sea King helicopter (the redoubtable whirlybird is a mainstay of the Qatari Air Force’s rotary wing) whilst other troops quickly climbed on board from the sea having come alongside in fast RIBs. Within five minutes the entire 162m (530ft) and eight decks of the ship had been secured and searched, with the hijackers led out on the upper deck, arrested and extracted by helicopter. The whole exercise proved to be a success from both an operational and international liaison perspective. “These two weeks at sea were
extraordinarily productive,” said Lt Cdr Ruddock.
“The opportunities to conduct varied and exciting training with many different nations and nurture stronger international working relationships in such a demanding environment are few and far between. “What the Qatari Armed Forces have achieved
here has been first-class and we are extremely pleased to have played our part in their exercise.”
were, they probably weren’t quite as enjoyable as three days of petrolhead ecstasy. Two-thirds of the Chiddingfold’s ship’s company (30ish sailors) enjoyed time at the Bahrain Grand Prix – the curtainraiser of the 2010 Formula 1 season courtesy of Tickets for Forces.
Enjoyable though the two Falcon exercises
A fortuitous meeting between the ship’s Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Jim Byron, and motor sport supremo Bernie Ecclestone resulted in the very generous gift of two VIP passes for the weekend (sadly Bernie’s busy schedule meant he couldn’t take up the ship’s offer of a day at sea in return). The passes allowed access to paddock and pit lane for the whole event and were shared out among the crew to give as many as possible a glimpse behind the scenes while allowing them to get up close to the action.
It went down particularly well with Logs Paul ‘Geri’ Halliwell, Chid’s biggest motor racing fan, who not only saw the end of the race in the Pit Lane wall, but also met almost all his F1 heroes, and photographed the podium presentation. He also managed to get on to the track itself before the race and appeared on the BBC coverage of the event, much to the delight of his 18-month-old daughter back at home, Lilly.
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