PORTSMOUTH’S mighty frigate HMS Iron Duke has been showing off her full array of firepower during a weapons testing operation.
The Type 23 blasted through five different weapon systems – her general purpose machine guns (GPMGs), the minigun, 30mm cannon, 4.5ins medium range gun and the Seawolf missile system – in the English Channel.
It wasn’t the only warship to be testing its tech – Devonport-based HMS Somerset became the first ship to fire new infra-red illumination rounds which are designed to light up the battlefield for friendly forces wearing appropriate eyewear.
Iron Duke’s testing started with target tracking runs on the Seawolf missile system.
The ship then moved into a gunnery shoot against an inflatable target, finishing with firing a Seawolf missile – which can strike a target at two-and-a-half times the speed of sound from up to six kilometres away.
HMS Iron Duke’s missile director Petty Officer (above water warfare) John ‘Arthur’ Lowe is in charge of the weapon system from the operations room and, as the close range weapon instructor, he oversaw the close range guns from the upper deck.
Recently selected for promotion to Chief Petty Officer, PO Lowe will leave the ship at the end of the week, with the successful firings a fitting send-off.
‘Being in the seat as missile director is always a great experience for a live missile firing,’ he said. ‘Getting to do this in my last week onboard was a real thrill and a fantastic way to end a really enjoyable time in Iron Duke.’
Iron Duke’s sister ship HMS Somerset conducted its tests at the other end of the country, in Cape Wrath, Scotland.
Commanding officer of HMS Somerset Commander Michael Wood said: ‘These firings have pushed forward our capability to support marines and other land forces ashore. Delivering devastating naval gunfire from our warships is just one facet of our contribution to the nation’s defences.’
HMS Somerset worked with spotters from 148 (Meiktila) Battery Royal Artillery whose job was to direct the ship’s fire accurately and safely on to a target at distances over 21 kilometres.
Over two days and nights the ship fired more than 100 rounds of 4.5ins ammunition – with each shell weighing over 40kg.
The firing was watched by Keith Mayo from the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation.
He said: ‘This marks a significant milestone for the team who have worked tirelessly to bring the new ammunition into service, providing value and a capability that will make our troops more effective and ultimately save lives.’