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Mk 44 Minigun firing onboard HMS Dauntless during EX UNITAS. The exercise involved a live firing from Dauntless aimed at a Star-shell fired from American Naval ship USS Anzio. Picture: LA (Phot Wilson)/Royal Navy
Saturday, October 6, 2012
THE Caribbean night sky was lit up by Great Yarmouth’s adopted warship HMS Dauntless when it took part in an international exercise - that could have been forgiven for looking like an impromptu firework display.
The £1bn Type 45 destroyer was among several vessels that fired off bursts of decoy rounds during UNITAS, the largest and longest-running naval exercise in the northern hemisphere.
Dauntless - one of the UK’s most advanced warships - was joined by a dozen other warships from seven nations, operating from Key West in Florida.
For the night shoot, star shells from the USS Anzio lit up the sky and the various ships taking part let loose with their guns.
Crew on board Dauntless used 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.
Dauntless’ air warfare officer Lieutenant Tom Rowley said: “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.”
The 11 day exercise involved ships from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, plus hosts the USA. For the Royal Naval ship it was a welcome change having spent most of the deployment working 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 the under pressure officers of the watch was Sub Lt James Hodgkiss.
He said: “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.
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 and is due back later in the autumn.