PLOUGHING through rough seas, this is HMS Westminster taking on wild waves in the English Channel as she prepares for duty in the Middle East.
The Portsmouth-based frigate was battered by the elements off the coast of Plymouth where she is being put through vigorous training drills by the Royal Navy.
The Type-23 frigate recently passed initial safety tests to make sure she is ready to start training for piracy patrols and will now spend five weeks under the watchful eye of the navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) staff.
In the coming weeks, the whole of the ship’s company will be put through their paces as they are tested on their reactions to a variety of scenarios including fires on board and a terrorist attack from land or the sea.
It comes as Westminster gets ready to leave the UK in the new year for a busy six months of maritime operations to tackle pirates and other illegal activity in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.
Captain Nick Hine, commanding officer of HMS Westminster, said: ‘My ship’s company are keen to get going on this demanding, but professionally satisfying period of training.
‘We deploy next year to the Middle East and Indian Ocean, and operational sea training will hone our skills to ensure that we are confident to meet whatever awaits us.’
For the next five weeks, Westminster will be involved in the navy’s so-called Thursday wars – a weekly war scenario which is played out off the coast of Devon with other ships to provide a realistic set-up of air, surface and submarine attacks.
The training should not come as too much of a shock to the frigate, which hit the headlines earlier this year when she was called in at short notice to help with Nato operations off the coast of Libya as the North African country descended into civil war.
The ship was on a ceremonial visit in London when she got the call in March and was in the warzone to enforce the Nato arms embargo for four weeks before returning home on April 8.
Six months on, her crew find themselves in rough south coast seas for a period of top-up training from the Devonport-based FOST assessors whose job is to cast a close eye over warships and commanding officers to ensure ships are fully prepared for front-line duties.
But before Westminster – nicknamed the Capital Ship – could even contemplate getting down to serious training, her sailors first had to prove to FOST that their warship and all those who sail in her are safe and ready for the demanding training schedule.
There were 68 FOST assessors embarked in the ship – roughly one for every three members of the ship’s company – and every inch of the frigate was subjected to intense scrutiny.
Westminster clearly did enough to impress the FOST team which duly signed her off as ready to start pre-deployment training.
A navy spokesman said: ‘Now it is up to the ship’s company to build upon the standards displayed at this early stage and maintain that progression until the day of the final inspection and completion of training on November 3.’