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
Nicholas
1 year ago

Do these frigates still carry depth charges for the helicopters?

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
1 year ago
Reply to  Nicholas

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
Rudeboy
1 year ago
Reply to  Nicholas

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

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
1 year ago
Reply to  Nicholas

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.

Steve R
Steve R
1 year ago

Well the article said that the deck gunners were training against the 120mph drones. This was testing the smaller weapons, and it’s likely that somewhere like the Strait of Hormuz that that’s the kind of attack they would face.

If the ship came under missile attack, hypersonic, supersonic or subsonic, it will be met with our own missiles. No way would we ever be fighting off missile attacks with machine guns or miniguns.

They will likely had anti missile drills and training during the rest of the exercise.

Andy P
Andy P
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve R

I know its not the same thing and i get your point but I’m sure I read that more aircraft were shot down in the Falklands by GPMG’s etc spraying off at incoming aircraft. I accept a Skyhawk ain’t a hypersonic missile but as you say, that’s not likely to be their opposition in The Gulf.

As for what the Russians and Chinese are doing, while I guess they need to be watched, i do take their claims with a pinch of salt, if we’re ‘economical’ with the truth about our capabilities, I’m sure they are too.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
1 year ago

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
James
1 year ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

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
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  James

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
ChariotRider
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

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
Nicholas
1 year ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

‘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
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  Nicholas

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
4thwatch
1 year ago
Reply to  Nicholas

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
Nicholas
1 year ago
Reply to  4thwatch

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.

Bill
Bill
1 year ago

Which is one good reason not to visit the South China Sea next year.

James
James
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill

China has had numerous opportunities to fire at an American carrier and they have not, I doubt they will fire at the QE carrying american planes/personnel really.

Bill
Bill
1 year ago
Reply to  James

Probably not and l’m sure the Americans will be keeping close tabs on their 12 F35’s and valuable aircrew.

Steve
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill

Its going to be interesting to see if the US require that one of their destroyers is involved in the taskforce or if they will trust us to defend their jets.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

Hi Steve,

From what I have seen on the TV coverage of QE’s work in the US I’d say that the RN and USN have very good and close relationships. The politicians may fall out, but the guys on the frontline know who they can depend on, so I would guess that the USN and USMC will trust the RN to look after their people! After all they will literally be in the same ‘boat’!

Cheers CR

Steve
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Its hard to know post the incident in Afgan and the US military demanding that they control defenses of bases after it.

I guess we will see next year.

The Snowman
The Snowman
1 year ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

But if the USN happens to have a couple of Arleigh Burkes available, I’m sure they would be a welcome addition. The Japanese have some nice AEGIS ships as well.

ETH
ETH
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

From previous war games and training I’m sure the US know very well the capabilities of the Type 45.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
1 year ago

120mph drone is around the same speed as Helos etc and its only for gunnery practise. Hypersonics are a different threat scenario with a completely different set of tactics to counter. As I have said before they are nothing new. The RN has been practising against near Hypersonic threats since the 1960s. A Mach 4.5 AS6 Kingfish top diving down your funnel isnt that much different to todays threats. The latest Russian KH32 is an updated KH-22 AS 4 Kitchen from 1960s. I wont go into the threat and tactics used but hypersonics are not all they are cracked up… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 year ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Well said. A missile travelling at Mach 5 plus will probably be travelling straight at the ship. At these speeds it will not be very maneuverable, as the high induced g loads won’t allow it to jink like a subsonic missile or it’ll break up in flight. It could probably barrel roll towards the target, but that’s about it. This makes its flight path more predicable and thus easier to intercept.

TopBoy
TopBoy
1 year ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Great post as always pal

Morten Knorborg Poulsen
Morten Knorborg Poulsen
1 year ago

In all fairness though the 120mph figure must be either a misquote or the result of fat finger syndrome, because even the slowest Banshee target drone does 220mph (200 kts) and the latest jetpowered version is capable of speeds up to around 600 mph.

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 year ago

Mate, calm down. Radar will always have the ability to track hypersonic weapons, it’s simple physics. A radio wave in atmosphere travels near to the speed of light. So even if your sea skimming missile is travelling close to Mach 10, it will still be detected with time to spare. Admittedly we are talking seconds after its just pooped over the horizon. This is where the issue rises, it’s not the radar that is the problem, it is the mission system that takes the information, checks the threat is valid and then sends a fire command to you air defence… Read more »

Steve
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  DaveyB

I suspect its not that simple. The radar itself might be capable of identifying the target, but whether the software / hardware can actually track something moving that fast is another question (my eyes can easily track a fast moving plane, but i for sure wouldnt’ be able to hit it). On top of that all our ships use rotating radars, which means that during the gap in coverage as the radar spins the missile will travel a large distance and another question is whether the tracking software identify that its still the same target. There is also reaction timing,… Read more »

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

If you are in a situation where you know someone is going to be shooting at you you hit all the infrastructure needed to support the shooter. So go for the Targeting aircraft. The tankers, the mid course guidance aircraft. Big easy slow targets . Without them the shooters chances of finding the target are greatly reduced. After that its down to to maths. Lots of triangles with Trig calculations and speed vectors, all stuff that computers excel at. Rotating radars dont just look in the direction that the transmitting face is facing. Active arrays mean you can look way… Read more »

Steve
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I think we can assume that the enemy will do whatever they can to stay below the radar as long as possible, so limiting that time. Like any computer puzzle, it also depends on how powerful the computer is. It would be interesting to know how often the computers are actually upgraded. The computers in them are likely high quality server parts of the era, but even so computers of the era have now been significantly exceeded in commutational power, mainly through invention of GPU compute which is way more efficient way of running complex math puzzles. Additionally people keep… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

n some respects, we were very lucky to pull out of the joint PAAMS project, but also not go down the SPY route. The PAAMS equipped Horizon ships are not of the same capability as a T45. Both ships use the Thales long range SMART-L or S1850M radar. However, the Horizon uses the EMPAR for tracking, whilst the T45 uses Sampson. EMPAR is a PESA radar that has only one antenna, Sampson is an AESA using two antennas placed back to back. This means the EMPAR has a field of view of only 120°, whilst Sampson has 240°. Both suffer… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 year ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Nuts, missed out the I for In at the beginning.

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
1 year ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Not to mention the heat signature of something travelling at M5+. We should really have IRST on our ships by now! I don’t see the limitations being with the radars or command system to detect, track, assess and react. If there is a limitation it might be on the aim-off required by the defending missile diving onto a M5+ sea skimming missile after it’s been launched vertically high into the sky and has conducted its tip over manoeuvre. Will the look angle of the seeker in the nose of an Aster 15 be sufficient to acquire the target and track… Read more »

Nicholas
Nicholas
1 year ago

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
Nicholas
1 year ago
Reply to  Nicholas

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

Steve
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  Nicholas

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
Gunbuster
1 year ago
Reply to  Nicholas

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 »