Royal Navy submarine hunters set to defend HMS Queen Elizabeth from attack sharpen skills against the US Navy

SUBMARINE hunters set to defend the Royal Navy’s future flagships from underwater foes have sharpened their skills following war games with the Americans.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 7:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 7:19 pm
A mark two anti-submarine warfare Merlin helicopter from 820 Naval Air Squadron, drops its sonar into the Atlantic during an exercise off the east coast of the USA. Photo: Royal Navy

Merlin helicopters from 814 and 820 Naval Air Squadron, which will be the eyes over the horizon for HMS Queen Elizabeth when she deploys, spent three months in the US ahead of the aircraft carrier’s landmark mission.

The squads were pitted against the US Navy’s Los Angeles-class hunter-killer submarines off the east coast of America during Queen Elizabeth’s time there.

‘The Los Angeles class are fast, agile and able to stay submerged as long as the food lasts – the perfect adversary to train against,’ said pilot Lieutenant Nick Jackson-Spence.

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Aircrewman Petty Officer Andrew ‘Smudge’ Smith – who helps operate the sub-hunting sensor suite in the back of a Merlin – said the American boats proved to be formidable ‘foes’.

‘The US submarines are experts in using the underwater environment to their advantage – they live underwater, we only visit,’ he added.

‘We had to draw on our training to counter them. Each sortie takes a lot of preparation and planning, but after every flight we learn a little more; helping us to keep the carrier safe.’

Lieutenant Commander Robert Bond, who commanded a detachment of helicopters aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, said the submarine threat is a huge danger to the carrier.

He added the war games helped develop key military tactics needed to defeat underwater foes and said: ‘We’ll be ready for the carrier’s first operational deployment in 2021 and relish the opportunity to help make it a success.’