As the BALTOPS exercise enters its second week, the Royal Navy say that the demanding opening stage tested the crew of HMS Kent to the limit.

Exercise BALTOPS is the largest annual multinational exercise in the Baltic Sea. Its purpose is to test the skills and capabilities of the participating nations and their ability to fight together.

The frigate is one of two Royal Navy warships joining more than two dozen vessels, a similar number of aircraft and upwards of 3,000 military personnel in the annual international test of naval and air power, in 2020 in its 49th year.

KMS Kent on BALTOPS. Image Crown Copyright 2020.

According to a Royal Navy news release here:

“Portsmouth-based Kent has covered well over 500 miles during Baltops 2020 from the southern Baltic and around the Danish island of Bornholm, to the Latvian coastline. As the exercise name suggests, the goal of Baltops is to test the ability of NATO and allied/partner nations to guarantee the freedom and security of nations with a Baltic coastline. In that context, the exercise runs the gamut of seafaring and naval warfare: air and submarine defence, surface warfare, manoeuvring with other vessels in close proximity, sailors falling overboard (and being rescued by the swimmer of the watch), refuelling (courtesy of the American USNS Supply).

The upper deck gunners tested their marksmanship with machine-guns and Miniguns (ship-mounted Gatling guns) and the 30mm Automatic Small Calibre Gun (ASCG) against dummy surface targets before ‘air attacks’ as Banshee drones – 9ft long, 8ft wingspan, moving at about 120mph – were deployed against Kent. Also put to the test were the flight team as maintainers prepared and loaded a dummy Sting Ray for the Merlin helicopter, which promptly headed off on a sortie with the torpedo at the ready.”

The Royal Navy add that aside from HMS Kent, minehunter HMS Ramsey is also involved in the exercise, working as part of a NATO mine warfare task group which she joined last month.

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Nicholas
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Nicholas

Do these frigates still carry depth charges for the helicopters?

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

Hi Nicholas,

Surprisingly, according to Wikipedia as of 2018 the RN retained MK11 Mod 3 for its Wildcats and Merlins. Also on the RN website the MK11 is still listed for the Merlin. So I guess the short answer is Yes!

https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/the-equipment/aircraft/helicopters/merlin-mk2

Cheers CR

Rudeboy
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Rudeboy

Absolutely. In shallow waters and against some targets UUV’s/Divers/SDV’s they’re the best weapon to use.

Gunbuster
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Gunbuster

Yep still used. Not the greatest weapon to prep for use. Its a thin cased weapon and having one preped ready to go on the upperdeck is something of a hazard.

But they are great for shallow targets, anti diver, shot across the bows of Large vessels (BIG Water Spout not easily missed ) and most importantly fishing for Tuna.

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

Related here is a really good article on Save the Royal Navy about LMM / Martlet missile with an awesome picture of a Wildcat fully tooled up with 20 missiles…

https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/the-martlet-missile-wildcat-helicopter-gets-its-claws/

Cheers CR

James
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James

Certainly looks the business with all those launchers attached!

Wouldnt want one of those popping out from behind a container ship and lighting you up as a target!

Steve
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Steve

It would be interesting to know how many missiles are are buying, as they seem to be the future for a lot of capability.

What i don’t get is why they are not also being integrated onto the Merlin’s. With the fleet spread so thinly, whatever helicopter that is on board needs to be able to help tackle a swam attack.

ChariotRider
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ChariotRider

Hi Steve, The article states that a £48m contract has been signed for 1000 rounds. The weapon is pretty simple and because it current version is laser guided only one target can be engaged at a time. However, MBDA are working on a fire and forget seeker header, so multiple target engagement would then be possible. As for the Merlin, well that platform as no ASW capability in RN service. I have read quite a bit about that over the years and some of the articles have hinted that there is a degree of doctrinal orthodoxy involved – Wildcat is… Read more »

Nicholas
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Nicholas

‘doctrinal orthodoxy’. What an excellent way to put it. Far too much of that kind of thinkinkink from the RN. Is this where the relaxed attitude to no anti-ship missiles in a few years because they think its the subs job alone?

Steve
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Steve

As we know Generals/Admirals only decide to talk up about capability shortages after they retire can no longer do anything about it. Although i can’t blame them as they will get immediately sacked if they were to do so and like the rest of us they need their income / pension.

4thwatch
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4thwatch

Seems the RN needs a drastic shake up of its combat awareness thinking. Like just like the Grand Fleet not trained to fight at night 100 years ago.
If I was in charge i would challenge many of its current preconceptions.
Glaring weaknesses in Sub Killing now and into the foreseeable future. Glaring weakness in Surface Strike.
Wake up before its too late!

Nicholas
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Nicholas

The T26 could be a great ship. My pessimission, however, tells me that it might a very expensive ship good at locating potential enemies but unable to do much about them. For a sub hunter it seems a little light on sub-killing as you say. ASROC as a minimum would see sensible giving sub-killing more range.
I appreciate the arguments about the importance of sensors and electronics, but surely we limit our options if we don’t have the weapons to use with the electronics. Right across the navy we seem a little short of bite.

Nicholas
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Nicholas

We fon’t test our air defence missiles anywhere near enough. Similalations and acceptance/capability testing aside. I suppose its an issue of cost and replenishment. Doin live Sea Ceptor test on a 31 with its 12 cells won’t leave much room for testing.
Additionally I would be interested to know if all the ships carrying sea ceptor carry a full load.
An American view on testing:

https://navy-matters.blogspot.com/2020/06/more-defensive-missile-data.html

An I right in think where Seawolf was fire in pairs Ceptor is not?

Nicholas
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Nicholas

Am I right in thinking where seawolf was fired in pairs Sea Ceptor is fired in singles?

Steve
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Steve

The problem as you state is money and based on what happened with Libya with the tomahawks i suspect serious lack of missiles to actually use for testing.

There have been rumors for years that the ships go to sea with most of their silo’s empty, i assume because of the cost involved in carrying more and/or lack of available missiles.

I did a quick google but couldn’t’ find details of how many missiles we actually brought.

Gunbuster
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Gunbuster

Wolf was salvo shots to make the hit probability as near to 100% as you could get it. Ceptor and Viper being of a later generation and using a longer engagement range can go off in single shots with a V high hit probability. As for testing , the RN doesnt waste the opportunity to record every single bit of data from a shot. These things are not cheap so the data recording and post analysis is very detailed. The old version of wolf on T22 was around 150k a pop, VL Seawolf on T23s more still. Surveillance radar and… Read more »