One of the Royal Navy’s most modern warships, HMS Dauntless, impressed members of other navies during the multinational exercise Saharan Express in the Atlantic last week, according to the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence.
Exercise Saharan Express, which took place off the coast of Senegal, saw military personnel from 12 nations, including France, Gambia, Senegal and Morocco, training to deal with people-trafficking, piracy, drug-smuggling and illegal fishing. The exercise kicked off on April 23 and concluded on April 30.
HMS Dauntless, in her first operational deployment, was the most modern ship at Saharan Express, dwarfing the patrol vessels used by West African nations to tackle crime off their shores, and she opened her doors to some of the personnel from other countries.
Lieutenant Simon Mendy, from the Gambian Navy, led his boarding team around the quarterdeck and futuristic bridge of the 8,000-tonne Royal Navy ship. “We’ve really learned from visiting Dauntless and carrying out boarding work. The ship’s crew has been very helpful; this is a rare chance for us to see a warship of this size,” he said.
The Type 45 warship, which is taking part in the ‘Auriga 12’ deployment, was praised by other visiting officers.
French Lieutenant Guillaume Eudeline, from the helicopter carrier Tonnerre (meaning ‘thunder’), said that, “It has been a great experience seeing this ship and the technology it has – the radar is very impressive. I believe that the French and British navies will work together increasingly closely in the future, which can only be a good thing for both of us.”
Dauntless is the size of a cruiser rather than a destroyer, but can still reach speeds of up to 30 knots (56km/h) from a standing start in four times her length. She is the first warship in the world with an entirely electric propulsion system, a design which aims to make her 45 per cent more efficient than the ships she replaces.
Captain William Warrender, Dauntless’ Commanding Officer (CO), said the exercise had shown the versatility of the ship. “We have here a tremendously powerful warship but also one that can fulfil a range of tasks. This exercise is exactly what Auriga 12 is about; we are meeting other navies, working with them to improve their capacity to work effectively, and at the same time continuing to learn more about what this class of ship can do.”
HMS Dauntless is 152 m long and is the second of six Daring Class Type 45 destroyers that are replacing the Type 42 class of ship. She is also the second Type 45 to go on operational patrols – having left for the Gulf region in January.
Saharan Express focused on combating illicit activities – such as illegal fishing, trafficking and piracy – that are endangering the maritime security in many of the participant nations.
“We all know that illegal fishing threatens the food security of our countries,” said Senegalese Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Mohamed Sane. “Illegal acts like immigration, arms trafficking, pollution, piracy and terrorism threaten social stability. No maritime power can face these challenges alone.”
“Maritime security is everybody’s problem,” said Lieutenant Commander Mike Meydenbauer, deputy chief at the U.S. Embassy’s office of security cooperation in Dakar. “It’s a challenge all over the globe. No one nation can handle it alone.”
Exercise Saharan Express’s scenarios focused on maritime interdiction operations (MIO) including visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) drills; search and rescue scenarios; medical casualty drills; radio communication drills; and information management practice techniques. They ran off the coasts of Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, and Gambia, and were monitored and controlled by multiple maritime operations centers (MOCs) in the region.
The scenarios provided African, European and U.S. maritime services the opportunity to work together, share information and refine tactics, techniques and procedures in order to help West African maritime nations to monitor and enforce their territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.
The nations that participated in the second Saharan Express are Cape Verde, represented by CV Guardiao; France, represented by FS Tonnere; Gambia, represented by GNS Taipai; Cote d’Ivoire; Liberia; Mauritania, represented by Limam Elhadrami; Morocco, represented by RMN Bir Anzarane; Senegal, represented by SN Popnguine, SN Ex Conejera and SN Baye Sogul; Sierra Leone; Spain, represented by ESPS Vencedorea; the United Kingdom represented by HMS Dauntless, and the United States, represented by USS Simpson (FFG 56).
“The main role of Simpson was to work with the other countries to provide a platform for them to train on, evaluate how they progressed during training and submit feed back,” said Ensign Kevin Mullin, Simpson’s boarding officer. “It was a really good learning experience to work with the other nations, I think they definitely got something out of it too.”
During this year’s Saharan Express, Simpson acted as a target ship while crewmembers set up different scenarios of illegal fishing, illicit drug trafficking and first aid medical response for the other nation’s visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams to board and treat the exercise as they would in an actual situation.
“Back in Dakar, the idea of the training was to cross train with our African partners on medical topics that VBSS teams may have to put in effect during a boarding,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF) Christopher Tilley, Simpson’s Saharan Express medical training mentor. “We had the Senegalese army paramedics actually instructing the training. They did a very good job. They were concise. They were clear with their instruction and the African nations really walked out of it with the point of the training.”
While medical and boarding training was conducted in Dakar, Senegal, the underway portion was controlled by the Counternarcotics and Maritime Security (COSMAR) interagency operations center in Praia, Cape Verde.
Simpson, previous to Saharan Express 2012, also participated in a community relations (COMREL) project in Praia, Cape Verde where crewmembers volunteered to paint two classrooms and visit students at the elementary school Escola Lavadoura.
Simpson, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate homeported out of Mayport, Fla., continues to conduct theater security cooperation and maritime security operations in the U.S. Naval Forces Africa area of responsibility.