FIREWORKS FROM DAUNTLESS DURING NIGHT-TIME GUNNERY TRAINING IN THE CARIBBEAN
HMS Dauntless lit up the Caribbean night as she took part in an impressive gunnery shoot in the dark with numerous other warships as an international exercise reached its fiery climax. The 11-day-long UNITAS exercise saw 13 ships from seven nations train together and let rip with their firepower against targets in the air and on the sea.
It is October 5, isn’t it?
Just checking the date, because these look suspiciously like fireworks.
They’re bursts of chaff – decoy rounds – fired from the Mk240 launcher aboard HMS Dauntless somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, just one fiery element of stunning night-time gunnery involving numerous warships involved in an international exercise.
The new Portsmouth-based destroyer was Britain’s participant in UNITAS, the largest and longest-running naval exercise in the Northern Hemisphere, involving 13 warships from seven nations, operating from Key West in Florida.
For the night shoot, star shells from the USS Anzio lit up the Caribbean sky and the various ships taking part let loose with their guns – in Dauntless’ case her Minigun (a hand-held Gatling gun) and General Purpose Machine-Guns as well as the infra red decoy (designed to fool heat-seeking missiles).
D33 expended thousands of rounds (not too hard in the case of the Minigun which throws out at a hail of steel at a rate of up to 6,000 rounds a minute) during the spectacular shoot.
“It was our own personal Olympic firework closing ceremony – we missed the real thing. Every ship in the task group was involved and it was really quite something to see,” said Dauntless’ air warfare officer Lt Tom Rowley.
The 11-day exercise saw Dauntless join ships from Brazil (former HMS Broadsword, now BNS Greenhalgh), Canada, Colombia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, plus hosts the USA working side-by-side – for the Brits a welcome change having spent most of the deployment acting as a ‘lone wolf’ all alone in the North and South Atlantics.
“To get back in with some big boys was of benefit and helped to lift our operational capability,” said Lt Rowley. “Operating as a task group, the bridge has been the most busy: the officer of the watch dealt with complex formations – and in pidgin English/Spanish.”
One of those under-pressure officers of the watch was Sub Lt James ‘Hodge’ Hodgkiss. “Personally, I learned a lot. I found it taxing at times, but it was great to see how all our training comes together.
“As a bridge team, we really enjoyed UNITAS – it was possibly the highlight of our deployment so far.”
As well as complex task group manoeuvres, the force had to fend off drone attacks by air and sea; the former was shot down by the Anzio, rather than Dauntless’ Sea Viper missiles; the waterborne drones – Hammerhead remote-controlled fast attack boats – were collectively dispatched.
With the exercise now over, Dauntless is conducting anti-drug-running patrols as part of the international clampdown on the narcotics trade in Caribbean waters. She’s due back home in Portsmouth at the end of the month