Her Majesty’s Ship Dragon has been prowling the South Atlantic Ocean and found time this past week to assist the South African Navy in qualifying a new submarine commander.
The Type 45 Air Defence Destroyer HMS Dragon (D35) deployed from Portsmouth in October last year on a seven month standing patrol of the Atlantic as Atlantic Patrol (South). This is only her second deployment since her maiden foreign voyage in March 2013 to the Gulf region and her first visit to Cape Town.
In the words of the Commanding Officer, Captain Rex Cox, the patrol involves covering “the south Atlantic environments, to patrolling the whole area and maintaining a presence. That is everything from providing reassurance to the United Kingdom’s overseas territories, to be ready to provide disaster relief and humanitarian relief and also to provide deterrence if necessary.”
HMS Dragon originally arrived at Naval Base Simon’s Town on Friday 6 February where she underwent a short period of maintenance and to provide Rest and Recuperation for her 200 crew.
Prior to her arrival, she had been sailing around the south Atlantic, visiting several countries. “We visited Chile and we’ve been in the Falklands Islands where we have been working with our own ships of the Royal Navy, we visited Tristan da Cunha as well to provide reassurance there,” Cox told defenceWeb aboard the vessel on Wednesday.
As Dragon is in the middle of a seven month deployment, her arrival in Simon’s Town was for “essential maintenance, routine maintenance half way through the deployment and also for some rest and recuperation.”
Cox noted that South Africa “is a very strategic and important place for us to come and visit. We always get a very, very friendly welcome here.”
Referring to the long historical relationship between the Royal Navy and the South African Navy, he said that it is good to come back and work with friends and colleagues.
Dragon then departed Simon’s Town harbour on Thursday 26 February before arriving in Table Bay Harbour on Wednesday 4 March.
It was during this period that Dragon worked with the South African Navy doing submarine exercises with SAS Manthatisi (S101), which had only recently returned to sea after a major overhaul.
Cox mentioned that “the South African Navy is currently training one of their future Commanding Officers for one of their submarines and we have been helping to put him through his paces.” These exercises took place in False Bay and off the Cape Town Atlantic seaboard.
The high respect that the Royal Navy has for the South African submariners is reflected in his comment that the advantage is with the submariner in the particular waters around the Cape, “with the special temperature and the way sound works through the water.”
“We learnt an awful lot working with them and I suspect the student submarine captain we were working with has learnt an awful lot about this class of ship,” Cox remarked. “So it’s been a win-win situation and a symbiotic relationship.”
Dragon will depart the V&A Waterfront on Monday 9 March, but she will not immediately commence her return home.
The bi-lateral naval Exercise Good Hope VI between the South African and German navies commenced this week and the opportunity to exercise with the modern Daring class destroyer was not lost on the participants.
“We were kindly invited to join some of the serials before we head back north on the next stage of our deployment,” Cox said.
Although not formally taking part in Exercise Good Hope, Dragon will be completing a PASSEX (Passage Exercise) with both the South African and German navies. She will then carry on with her mission further north.
The journey home will be up the west coast of Africa, visiting several countries before arriving back in Portsmouth in mid-May. This journey involves transiting the pirate infested waters of the Gulf of Guinea.
Although not specifically tasked for the anti-piracy mission, Cox stated that Dragon has “a capable anti-piracy capability on board. If the situation arises and circumstances necessitate, then we’re capable of carrying out that mission if required.”
HMS Dragon is one of six Type 45 destroyers in the Royal Navy. She was designed primarily for area defence, specifically to protect the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. Dragon is equipped with the 1045 SAMPSON multi-function radar and the Aster 15 and 30 missiles, together known as the Sea Viper anti-air missile system. Other armament includes a 4.5 inch Mk 8 Mod 1 gun, two 30 mm automatic guns and a number of smaller weapons.
Dragon is also equipped with a Westland Lynx Mk 8 maritime helicopter and this is the last deployment for the Lynx before she is replaced by the new AgustaWestland Wildcat.
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