814 Naval Air Squadron was invited to take part in Dynamic Manta, a NATO anti-submarine warfare exercise.

Dynamic Manta is one of two large-scale anti-submarine exercises NATO runs; the other, Dynamic Mongoose, tests the ability of those same forces but in the cooler waters of the North and Norwegian Seas.

According to the Royal Navy in a release:

“Nine surface ships led the hunt for five boats – including one British attack submarine – as helicopters such as those from 814 dropped sonobuoys and ‘dipped’ their sonar in the Mediterranean to listen for the tell-tale noises made by their underwater foes.

The chance to ‘play’ with both nuclear and conventional diesel-powered submarines in waters six degrees warmer and nearly ten times deeper than around the squadron’s native Cornwall – all factors which affect the ability of sonar to find boats – made Dynamic Manta an extremely useful training exercise.”

“We succeeded in tracking ‘hostile’ submarines and scored confirmed kills. There was also some friendly cooperation with a boat – not all submariners deserve a torpedo from a Merlin!” said Commander Sarah Birchett, 814’s Commanding Officer.

26 COMMENTS

    • They are hardly likely to say stuff like that!

      I’d imagine given the reputation of the Silent Service and British SSN’s they were extremely hard to find.

      SSN’s – our trump card.

      • Daniele,

        I didn’t mean a detailed report ‘for your eyes only’!!

        I’m sure its not a matter of national security to say, HMS Shergar was really a tricky little minx. We already know they’re hard to find that’s the bloody point of them.

        This site ( or possibly another, I don’t recall) has reported before that the Americans were shocked at how good Astute class were etc etc. Something on those lines.

        • It’s appeared on a few sites: Save the Royal Navy in their article about the Astute class, Wikipedia etc have quoted a British officer saying the Americans were “blown away” by how far away Astute was holding one of their Virginia Class boats (USS New Mexico I believe) on sonar.

        • You know you never hear stuff like that with regards to the 3 Seawolf class SSNs the USN operates. My guess is because those boats are an order of magnitude quieter and faster than any other boats out there at the moment. Unfortunately they were so expensive to build only 3 were ever built. The Virginia class was a compromise more geared towards the littoral environment. I think some of the early Virginia’s aren’t even cleared for under the Arctic ice packs. However the current Block IVs being built and launched now are greatly improved with additional quieting and improved sonar arrays and systems.

          • The Seawolfs are good, but with only 2 built as SSN’s they’re a limited resource. They’re also not likely to be any better than an Astute. Astute is 10 years younger than Seawolf and is likely to field a more sophisticated sensor suite. The USN was also playing catchup with the Seawolf Class as the RN had raised the bar on stealthiness with the Trafalgar Class with their rafted machinery and pump jet propulsor. The USN only trialled Pump Jets on a couple of Los Angeles Class so was lagging behind the RN, radiated noise from Los Angeles Class was also higher than the Trafalgar’s and Swiftsure’s. It’s likely the USN went past the Trafalgar Class in stealthiness with Seawolf but that the Astute has raised the bar further.
            Don’t read too much into the cost on the Seawolfs, that was more due to their size and very limited numbers built, all of the development costs had to be shared amongst 3 boats. Although the Virginia Class has been a very successful programme, its likely that if the USN had persisted with the Seawolf the costs would have been broadly comparable.

      • I was talking about the HM3 version of Merlin, we only have 30 and that’s to cover Carrier deployment as Anti sub and AEW plus support the TAS type 23s while we have 60 Chinooks ,do we really need that many?

        • Any change in Merlin numbers may well depend on how MoD see ASW and AEW developing over the next decade or so.

          Dipping sonar might be added to Wildcat as ROK navy have done. USV with VDS might deploy from T26 and T31, in numbers with sufficient speed, range and endurance to provide greater coverage. Both seem relatively affordable options to expand ASW.

          V247 UAV could be a far more capable AEW platform for carrier, amphib or escort use. Obviously there is still a question mark on platform cost and whether the program goes ahead, but V247 could offer a significant increase in AEW capability.

          • 25 Merlin and 28 Wildcat.

            Might sound like alot, but it’s worth noting that numbers were alot higher only a few years ago.

          • Small correction Lusty.

            25 Merlin and 6? Wildcats in the CHF, of 845, 846, and 847 NAS. The Wildcats actually being part of the 34 used by the army in 1 Reg AAC.

            The 28 Wildcats are the FAA HMA2 models not CHF.

            I think you did know, just correcting for the benefit of others who might think the CHF has 28 Wildcats!

        • Maybe the MoD is playing a long game. I looked up the Bell V-247 after GHF mentioned it and it does look as if it has the potential to be an extremely effective AEW platform and also with 3 internal payload bays plus wing pylons and something like 5,900kg fuel plus payload capacity perhaps even able to do some if not all of a Merlin ASW role as well.

          If the project does go ahead and the U.K. were to procure some V-247 then we might even get to the point a few years down the line where a significant number of the HM3 could be transferred to the Commando helicopter force. If that was the ultimate direction of travel then I can see why there might be some reluctance to buy any more Merlin right now.

          • Something else to factor into speculation on long term MoD planning is a transfer of Army Wildcats to the Navy, similar to the Merlin transfer. Both variants have very high commonality and the transfer might result if the Army sees a compelling product created from the US Future Vertical Lift- Light program for a Scout aircraft which supposedly has a target IOC for 2028.

        • In the end it boils down to role, if I am doing long range SAR or ASW out in the Middle of the Atlantic the Merlin wins hands down no contest! It has good automation, comfortable, a huge range, fast and most importantly for those scenarios three engines!

          For the military transport role it doesn’t fit too well, it is fragile, complex to maintain with an unnecessary third engine. It is touted as a medium lift type yet if you remove the rotor it is actually longer than a Chinook and requires a similar landing spot. It carries half the amount of troops that a Chinook but only 6 more than a Puma HC MK2. It has a sling load 2000lb less than a Puma HC MK2.

          For the Commando force Merlin makes sense as it means they have a fleet that has commonality with the HM2 fleet but that is about it!

  1. @ Daniele,

    Yes, my bad. It’s what I get for typing my comments up so late!

    Thanks for the clarification.

    If Gav’ gives us some more helicopters, I’d be a happy man.

  2. FlightGlobal is reporting that Bristow helicopters is in financial trouble. Its share price has dropped about 90% in a year.
    I thought it was crazy to privatise airsea rescue. Has HMG made any plans, re airsea rescue, should Bristow go into administration?

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