Merlin helicopters from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose will spend the next week searching for submarines in NATO’s largest Mediterranean Anti-Submarine Exercise, Dynamic Manta 2018.

During the exercise, the helicopters will protect and attack the NATO submarines, and work with the helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft and ships of ten other nations say the Royal Navy.

“It is important for aircrews from various NATO nations’ to come and train together in this truly challenging environment,” explained Greece’s Commodore Andreas Vettos, who is overseeing the aerial element of the exercise.

“I’m convinced that the benefit for all participating nations will be immense and will assist in preparing our aircrews for future tasks and operations.”

Detachment Commander, Lieutenant Commander Richard ‘Whisky’ Walker said:

“After a long transit from RNAS Culdrose, our Merlin helicopters have arrived in Catalina and are ready to take part in Exercise Dynamic Manta 2018. Our main role is to hunt for the six NATO submarines during our time here, working alongside other aircraft to find them.

Whilst we are here in Sicily, it will be an intensive flying programme for us. Our submarine hunt will start immediately. Engineers are now busy in the hangar fitting all of the role equipment that enables us to hunt for submarines, including dipping sonar, an infra-red camera and various other kit. Then we will hand over to further crews to continue to mission.”


  1. 30 updated from the original 44 procured too small for the task at hand in my opinion, especially as the ASCS mission has been placed on them with the pending demise of Sea Kings of 849 NAS.

    Is there any chance the remaining 8 can be updated to take on the role?

    Or, as pointed out, with Crowsnest being transferrable is it really Ok to just attach as needed to existing?

  2. Hi Daniele
    The money unfortunately would come out of the RDEL pot which is already stretched, you would have to reduce the overall FAA run cost from somewhere.
    I am sure the RN are thinking of innovative ways to solve the problem.

    • Fair enough answer Lee.

      One Merlin Squadron has already been disbanded and 848 NAS from the CHF also gone with the transfer of Merlin from the RAF so what else to cut?

      Only Culdrose and Yeovilton left now Prestwicks gone bases wise.

      I guess the solution is bolt on as necessary as planned unless there is an uplift in spend.

    • Is this innovative? Use Schniedal camcopters or similar to carry active dipping pingers. At just 200kg MTW they can fly for up to 10 hours whilst the ship steams slowly using passive sonar. Four of them would still leave plenty of room on a T45 for a multi mission Wildcat that would act as a QRA with Stingrays if a Sub is actually found. This has got to be cheaper and more 24/7 than one or two massive Merlins and for this exercise it would have avoided the 2,300km transit from the UK to Sicily.

  3. Cut the foreign aid budget by 50%
    That would save £7billion a year, more than enough to upgrade 8 Merlin’s and put them into ASW role.
    Then how about not giving the EU £34 billion as a Brexit bill when the UK was always one of only 3 EU countries that ever paid in more than we got out.
    Or how about not spending £70-100 billion on HST2 or £54 billion for a single new nuclear power station.
    Seems to me there is plenty of money. It just boils down to choices and how our government chooses to spend our money.

    • I think the vast majority of the UK population would agree with you. Unfortunately, the government is not listening!

    • Mr bell – I was with you on most of your comment there but can I gently point out that HS2 is not going to cost £70 Bn let alone £100 Bn. And whatever it DOES cost the money will be going directly into our economy and especially local economies along the route as it is built. We need massive infrastructure investment and if you are going to build a new railway to add capacity (as our Main Lines are currently full) then adding High Speed costs very little extra. The trains of course will be, as all trains are, privately funded and operated and so not a cost to us taxpayers.

      And without getting political if we had stayed in the EU it would cost us £13 Bn+ every year like forever so 3 years ‘subs’ to meet our contracted commitments and pensions over 30 years seems a good deal to me.

        • I don’t agree with the “few elites” characterisation but if we’re talking about business people then I’d say that with laptops, tablets, mobile phones and internet data plans it means that for pretty much every business person travelling on those trains it’s not a 20 minutes that was being lost anyway so they’re not even saving those 20 minutes to add to their working day.

          I have no problems with spending money on rail infrastructure but personally I think that less money could be spent way more effectively by looking at increased frequencies on key existing routes and/or getting previously unconnected places onto the network.

    • I’d like to see some of our defence spending being paid for by the foreign aid budget, while also targetting a large section of that budget towards foreign security matters.

      Maybe some foreign country might need the aid of a T31 at some point.

      Perhaps a budget of 3% of GDP for defence + aid.

  4. Valuble experience seeing as Putin is undergoing the delusion that Russia, with a smaller economy than Canada, south korea and Italy, is still the USSR.

      • Lethal, kinda mad and on a time limit.

        Russia is the largest country in the world with massive amounts of natural resources and a respectablely large population. And yet despite that their GDP is tiny in comparison, not just tiny but getting even smaller as they are in a recession. Which means thay as it’s economy shrinks Putin has to dedicate more and more of the country’s taxes to the military, which despite the tolerance of Russians to massive military spending at the expense of everything else, is not in any way sustainable.

        And now he’s just started an arms race with the US he can’t possibly win. I’m not quite sure what he was thinking.

        • Maybe he has already won, he has low yield nukes which he can deliver anywhere, anytime from land, sea and air.

          Apparently he now has nuclear powered cruise missles, nuclear armed UUV and hypersonics. We are nowhere near having this ability

          They know they cant outspend NATO though, so dont try. How much did it cost them to take a piece of Georgia and Ukraine? Not a lot.

          I think his strategy is to get as much territory back as they can without triggering article 5 or a large nuke getting involved.

          I agree they are on a frightening time limit, NATO is upping spending, readiness and capability fast. He might be tempted into bold moves early, and we have our pants down.

          • “Apparently he now has nuclear powered cruise missiles, nuclear armed UUV and hypersonics” – I’ll bet the key word in that sentence was”apparently”.

  5. There are undoubtedly overspends in the Foreign Aid budget but the war mongers on here seem to fail to realise that a large percentage of the budget is used to obtain export deals including the dreaded sales of arms.

    • TH – Name us ONE export deal that has come as a result of Foreign Aid. We gave £ Bns to India over the years but they ordered Russian and French fighters. The last thing the Indians bought from the UK was HMS Hermes.

      I would be OK with Foreign Aid if it was structured like the Yanks did with Marshall Aid – It could only be used to buy US equipment and contract US companies. In other words back door Government subsidies for US exports. Brilliant idea! Better than funding African Girl Bands ….

      And why are arms sale ‘dreaded’? if we don’t sell them Russia will and draw more countries under their influence. No doubt you will be pleased with that idea ….

    • Sorry but warmongers? No one wants war but isn’t the best way to stop war is deter with a strong defence?
      Sorry but those that want us to disarm totally would u have us rely on faith to protect us from our enemies? And trust me in my forty years our enemies have grown both domestic and abroad.

    • You sound like Peder’s brother.

      Both happy to disarm the nation but perfectly happy for everyone else to keep their military.

      Textbook Momentum Hard Left Marxist Propaganda =

      Anyone remotely patriotic is Racist.
      Anyone who voted for Brexit is Racist.
      Anyone who wants controlled Immigration is Racist.
      Anyone who disagrees with the hard left who actually have the right to free speech is either a –

      Votes for Hitler.
      Little Englander.

      All terms used by the both of you over the last few months on this site.

      Ironically the other nations of the world are allowed to be independent nations, but the UK cannot. And all their cultures MUST be respected and protected, but weirdly that does not apply to the peoples of the UK for some reason.

      Poisoned minds, really.

  6. I noticed in a couple of photos on this exercise ‘elsewhere’ there were some mothballed Italian AF Merlins in the hangar the RN are using. Maybe we could ‘make them an offer they can’t refuse’?

    • Interesting.

      When we were in Afghanistan to increase the helicopters in theatre as we were so short, typically, the 22 Merlins of the RAF were supplemented by 6 meant for Denmark in short order.

      Who else operate Merlin who might have some spare and available?

    • Dumb question but are you all discussing the possibilities for buying second hand from other countries because it would be a cost effective solution or has the Merlin production line closed down so buying existing airframes (or reviving some of our own mothballed ones if they are not too cannibalised to save) is now the only option available to increase our Merlin numbers?

  7. I cannot agree with big cuts to the foreign aid budget, that is this countries soft power budget if you like, of which we are a world leader, the foreign aid budget is used to prevent wars and conflict by aiding poor countries to build there economies. Stable countries are far less likely to go to war as they have more to loose, people who have an education, no matter how basic are less likely to be radicalized. And yes we give money to rich countries like Pakistan, but British companies Benefit greatly from investment from such countries, and to guarantee foreign aid from the UK they have abide by certain rules, like not to nuke India ect. If we cut the foreign aid budget for the sake of a couple of extra frigates, we will loose far more diplomatic influence around the world that our military could never make up for, do you think Indonesia cares how many T45’s we have, they don’t, they do care about vaccines and fresh water. And that soft power is worth it’s weight in gold.

  8. A world leader in giving our borrowed money away to countries who can’t be assed to provide infrastucture for their own people but can be assed to develop nuclear weapons using our “aid”who then promise to not lob them at their neighbours in order to get more “aid”,madness sheer bloody madness.

  9. Great to see TH back on barking mad form! Russia is not the enemy being one of his more memorable gems! Oh yes I am says Mr. Putin and here’s my new shiny missile system to take you all out and your holiday homes as well.
    It really is pointless folks to continue a debate on cutting the existing overseas aid budget! This government is never going to have the nuts to do that! The brexit bill is going up and will dominate expenditure over the next five years. As the number 5 or 6 economy in the world it is a national disgrace that we do not have a fully funded defence program but here we are. India has always preferred to buy Russian whilst we support their nuclear and space program with generous subsidies supposedly intended to clear their streets and rivers of dead animals and the dirt poor left to rot. Have you ever been there? Still, we will still play the guilty imperialist and suck up to all concerned.
    We have to decide what role we want after brexit and step up accordingly. That as we all know comes with a huge price tag but hey, welcome to 2018 and a belligerent Russia and an expansionist China. Add one lunatic with a bad haircut in N Korea and a reality show US president. Our innovative defence industry is cutting edge and produces countless jobs to the economy. Long may that continue but let’s get real and recognise where our potential growth really lies.
    By the way I’m for cutting the number of F35’s by 20%. Just have four frontline RAF and FAA squadrons and requisite reserve and OCU’s. Let’s face it, we are never going to purchase 138. We never ever buy what we originally set out to do we?!!

    • Reality show president as opposed to some south side of Chicago community organiser,whatever Trump was is irrelevant he is now the president of the most powerful country in the world with the biggest defence budget by far of any other country do you seriously believe it is in the UK defence industries interests to continually insult and ridicule the guy?

      • Nope. We should be pushing for a trade deal as he’s Anglophile and likes the UK. Unfortunately the likes of Sadiq Khan get excited about the thought of President Trump visiting yet are quite happy entertaining many Foriegn Secretaries of nations who ban Israelis from travelling. Ooops hypocrisy nut when had that mattered when it’s bash Trump time?

        • What TH seeems incapable of understanding is “not the enemy” doesn’t equate to cuddley teddy bear. Just as a bear will always be bear, Russia will Russia. Fear is not necessary but a modicum of weariness and therefore preparedness for the sake of self-preservation is necessary.
          What people who quote GDP numbers do not seem to understand is Russia doesn’t import any raw or finished materials. This combined with lower living standards and post-Soviet agricultural reforms, has the effect of make their spending go far further than it would in the West.

  10. Marc, no I don’t but he puts himself out there for just that. America’s trust in the UK militarily is waning and with good reason. A quid pro quo for a top trade deal may be that we increase our defence budget in real terms over the next five years which means more war fighting vessels and an unmothballing – is that a word? – of 120+ challengers and 16+ Apaches. Yes I know that new Apaches are on order but it’s a ACC regiment short. If we show a committment on this front which will help the US as it gets more stretched in the Far East, it may just give us an edge. The US does not do free gifts or rides. We need the trade deal as the EU are looking to put UK PLC down. Make no mistake about that.


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