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HMS Daring Affiliation Report – Update (Nov 2010)

(You can download this report from the News Section)

The stage was set: Dry docking in Portsmouth was a distant memory, summer leave now over; HMS DARING was making good her final preparations for Type 45’s maiden deployment. It was not without much anticipation as this has been in DARING’s programme for some time and would prove to be the first venture beyond continental Europe. We were to join the USS ENTERPRISE Carrier Strike Group for their ‘Composite Training Unit Exercise’ or C2X, prior to their Task Group’s deployment to the Persian Gulf. Having completed our own sea training in the South Coast Exercise Areas in June, it was time to put the Navy’s new destroyer through her paces in an environment where the number of aircraft sorties seen in a day would exceed those which other exercises would be able to provide in a month or more. The prospect of visits to Norfolk Virginia, Mayport Florida, and New York City was also keenly anticipated.

After repairing the damage caused by the Southampton tug hitting DARING in early September, we sailed from Portsmouth bearing a small army of contractors and re‐embarked our helicopter and crew for three days of further tests and trials off Devonport. On the evening of Sunday, 19 September we eventually weighed anchor from the Plymouth Sound and commenced the 3,400nm Atlantic passage.

And so it was with eagerness that we spent eleven days on passage west and as the weather, we took the opportunity to hold traditional flight deck sports, a horse racing night and a BBQ. There had been much talk of Hurricane Igor and the associated weather system, for which we modified our route, and the heavy weather remained well clear of us. Apart from the occasional call to watch dolphins or whales, the Ops Room teams were busying themselves throughout the passage with our Fighter Controllers trying to impart their aviation knowledge to some of the our youngest sailors who, in a matter of weeks, would be giving radio direction to United States Navy F18 fighter jets. The Marine Engineers had a hectic time keeping 7500 tons of steel moving at an average speed of 15 knots.

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As the weather warmed, it was noticeable we were approaching the Virginia Capes and after an extremely dull pilotage featuring a 12 mile leg through the Chesapeake Bay and passing over the Bridge Tunnel (precisely that, an American invention of a bridge that dives beneath the estuary before emerging on the other side into another four‐lane highway), Naval Station Norfolk opened DARING in a Portsmouth Dry Dock on the port bow. Berthed at Pier 14 their naval base continued well beyond view. Each of the wharves bristled with warships. USS ENTERPRISE, ‘The Big E’ was abeam and eclipsed the dozens of Amphibious vessels, escorts and auxiliaries of the US Second Fleet behind her. Later that afternoon another 100,000 tonnes of nuclear‐powered steel took the other side of our pier and really made us feel small. That said, DARING’s sleek lines and spiky Samson radar drew looks from all who passed us and there were queues of American sailors wanting to come and have a look around and dispel the mystery of whether or not we did actually allow beer on board (the USN are dry).

With just enough time for the seamanship department to erect the awning, the heavens opened and the month’s rain descended upon us overnight. Fortunately, that was short and sharp and a weekend of blazing sunshine was enjoyed at Virginia Beach before hosting a UK Defence Industry Sales Day.

Affiliates_update_Nov2010_3A week later than expected, after dealing with an unexpected mechanical issue DARING joined the Task Group at sea, by now comprising the carrier and eight escorts, as well as the Norwegian frigate FRIJDTOF NANSEN and submarine UTVAER that completed the foreign contingent. In anticipation of the action, we closed up to trial the T45 defence watch routine and took our sector on the carrier. As we took up Plane Guard station over the next few days and nights, 3000 yards astern of the ENTERPRISE, you couldn’t avoid the humming of the Top Gun theme and quoting from the film.

Affiliates_update_Nov2010_4During C2X DARING was involved in serials testing Air Defence, counter‐targeting, Anti Submarine Warfare and possibly the world’s most complicated night Gunnery exercise with eight escorts. The milestones continued to be passed with the T45’s first night Replenishment at Sea with the auxiliary, USNS Arctic, and the landing of Commander Strike Force Training Atlantic’s Sea Hawk helicopter on our deck.

After ten days with the TG, we received permission to detach and turn South to allow us to assess DARING’s capacity to operate in warm waters in anticipation of possible deployments next year. Sadly, time wouldn’t permit any Caribbean island‐hopping, but Cuba did loom on the horizon before we completed our track and returned towards Mayport. During this time the Senior Rates took the opportunity to decorate their mess in Nelsonic style and enjoy the age old tradition of Pickle Night at sea. The Floridian naval station hosted us for a week of post‐exercise debriefs and a little R&R too. Trafalgar Night was an opportunity to impress the Americans yet again as we hosted the Commanding Officer of the USS Vicksburg, a ship we looked after when they visited Plymouth earlier in the year. Affiliates_update_Nov2010_5As we left Mayport there was a fantastic opportunity for 20 members of the Ship’s Company to conduct a Command, Leadership and Management Expedition around several US sites of military interest and this fantastic opportunity was supported by our affiliates, to whom we remain most grateful. A short period at sea also allowed the ship to be visited by the Commodore Portsmouth Flotilla Staff to undertake inspections and professional qualifications for members of the Ship’s Company; all were most successful.

The third visit of the deployment was to have been the last before returning to the UK. West Midtown, Manhattan, New York is one of the iconic berths for a warship. During a busy five day visit, DARING opened her doors to a range of visitors: His Excellency Mr Ban Ki‐Moon the Secretary‐General of the United Nations hosted a dinner on board, the London 2012 Olympiad Committee held a cultural event for guests including Affiliates_update_Nov2010_6Joanna Lumley, Jim Dale and Sir Patrick Stewart, and we had hundreds more guests besides. Despite an uncertain start, DARING achieved her aims for C2X and successfully proved her worth, operating as part of the US‐led Task Group and offering AAW protection superior to anything yet known by the world’s most powerful fleet. In addition, we flew the flag for T45, the RN and the UK, leaving no doubt as to our capability and the greater utility of the DARING Class and the Future Navy. When one of our shipmates took ill quite suddenly and seriously we made a diversion north in order to land him at a hospital in Cape Cod. To replace the extra fuel we had used in the high speed transit and in order to ensure were in an even more robust position to make the transatlantic crossing we stopped in Halifax, Nova Scotia to collect fuel and stores before heading home. We will arrive back in the UK several days later than we had originally planned but such is ‘life in a blue suit’. On our return we’ll proceed immediately into a planned maintenance period taking us through until the middle of February 2011 before we start our build up to what lies ahead and the first truly operational deployment for Her Majesty’s Ship DARING.

On behalf of everyone in DARING, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continual support and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We look forward to meeting up with you in 2011.

HMS Daring Affiliation Report (Nov 2010)

(You can download this report from the News Section)

HMS Daring – 2010

As anticipated, the arrival of our affiliated ship HMS Daring at her home base of Portsmouth brought fresh momentum to our link with the Royal Navy’s new class of destroyers this season. Half a dozen naval crew members of HMS Daring accepted our invitation to race with us over 3 July weekends, David Gower had a tremendous day embarked in HMS Daring on 1st July and we are delighted that Captain Paddy McAlpine RN has agreed to join us for dinner after the AGM when he will update us on ‘our’ ship’s recent activities and any possible involvement in our anniversary celebrations.

Widening the Affiliation?

Those watchers of the recent defence review amongst us will have noted with relief that the Type 45 destroyer programme has emerged from the current round of defence cuts relatively unscathed. HMS Daring will still be joined in Portsmouth over the next year or two by 5 more of the same class presenting us with an option to broaden the liaison should we so wish. With such issues in mind, and with the benefit of our experience of the affiliation’s first season with HMS Daring in Portsmouth, an informal meeting of interested Association members convened after racing one July Saturday. It was agreed that there remains broad support for the single-ship affiliation with HMS Daring in the hope that our Class might benefit from 1) a cadre of seamanlike RN crew, 2) occasional ship visits to Cowes, and 3) that Ship Launches and Sea Days etc are attractive events for our members. But at this early stage it was also foreseen that: given a) the dynamics of current RN ships’ programmes, b) the pressures of family life in home ports, and c) the rotation of sailors through their ships’ companies, that even with 6 Type 45 Destroyers operating out of Portsmouth, the affiliation could struggle to produce a reliable and dependable pool of sufficiently talented RN sailing crew to become a meaningfully valuable resource to our Class. Recognising that it is still early days for the affiliation it was agreed that it remains an aspiration to attract more naval members to our Association as regular crew or even owners. Nonetheless there was less support to widen out the formal affiliation to include HMS Dauntless and HMS Diamond et al, principally on concerns of the considerable administrative burden at our end for uncertain added benefits to our Class. But this position will be kept under regular review; all of the Type 45s will be gently consulted; and our own membership’s opinions on this and any other issue regarding the affiliation should be passed to any member of the Committee or to Calum Sillars or Anthony Rix direct.

4th Hand Slots – Proposed RN Crew Scheme

There was general support however for a scheme to offer the ‘4th hand’ slot in our crews to HMS Daring to enhance reliability of opportunities for RN sailors to sail with us and in a variety of our boats. Calum Sillars / Malcolm Lofts will circulate a note to FNOs in the run up to next season to sound out their interest in such a scheme and provide dates when the ship is programmed to be in Portsmouth when the scheme is most likely to be activated. The scheme is envisaged to be run in conjunction with the existing ‘crew available’ page on our web site which will remain a valued tool for skippers to fill 3rd or even 2nd hand positions particularly at short notice. If the scheme proves a success an informal approach could be made to the Type 45s alongside in Portsmouth other than HMS Daring to see if they have any keen sailors who want to sail with us, and to encourage their keen sailors either to use our ‘crew available’ page on our web site, or to liaise with HMS Daring’s affiliation liaison team to arrange their sailing.

HMS Daring – 2011

As mentioned earlier on, we have invited HMS Daring to join our 50th anniversary celebrations in Cowes either for our party on Friday 22nd July 2011 and the subsequent weekend of racing (NB: the Metre Regatta follows on 25th – 29th July) or over the Stug Perry weekend of Saturday 9th July and Sunday 10th July 2011. Should the ship be able to come to Cowes to support any of our 50th year’s events we will want to make sure her crew are well looked after and the Committee hopes that it can call on as many members as possible to support our hospitality ashore (possibly to include informal cricket, croquet or golf etc?) as well as offering crewing berths afloat. We should also bear in mind that even if the ship is able to accept our invitation, short notice operational commitments can ever impact best-laid plans. Finally, Captain Paddy McAlpine has been selected for promotion and will hand over to Captain Guy Robinson in the spring. We look forward to welcoming Guy to Cowes.

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HMS Daring – Great Balls of Fire

After a prolonged stay in Norfolk, HMS Daring sailed to join the USS Enterprise and her strike group at sea for the exercise otherwise known as C2X.
Our stay in Norfolk has been extremely pleasant. The USN and in particular the Arleigh Burke Destroyer USS Barry, our host ship, had gone to great lengths to make us feel welcome in their home port. Our thanks to everyone in Norfolk for making the visit one to remember.

The Strike Group totalling 12 vessels and over 70 aircraft have been operating within the US Navy’s exercise areas off the Eastern Coast of America.

US naval assets include an aircraft carrier, 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, 3 frigates and 1 supply ship. The norwegian frigate ‘Fridtjof Nansen’ and Daring are the only 2 non-US assets taking part. Daring has already played a significant part in the exercise. After just one day at sea with the Strike Group, Daring was tasked to take up the duty of checking in and checking out all of the exercise aircraft. The pilots of the F18s, Prowlers, E2Cs and Seahawks had nothing but positive comments for the warfare specialists manning the circuits, and Daring’s radars and command system appeared to be working superbly, providing a full air picture and passing that out to all the other allied units. Watching the awe inspiring deck operations on USS Enterprise is a real privilege.

This ‘C2X’ as it is referred to is designed to test the might of the USN in their ability to conduct warfare in all spheres of influence; a bit like our BOST in the South Coast Exercise Areas but on a larger scale. A few members of the warfare team got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ‘cross deck’ and spend 24 hours on the carrier.

Lt Si Cox, one of Daring’s Fighter Controllers, who organised the visit, had this to say:

‘It was a dream come true, we were stood literally 15 feet from the wing tips of jets as they landed and took off; the heat from their jet blast felt as if it would melt your face. The Americans really know what they’re doing, everything runs smoothly and in under a minute they can get four F18s off the deck. Recovering them is a bit trickier but it’s all done on a voiceless procedure from the flight deck which shows you just how well they need to know their job. You could almost reach out and touch the aircraft as they come in to land, that’s how close we were. The pilots are very cool; when they’re not flying they run the flight deck – after all they’re the best ones to know if the jets are ‘too high or too low’! I was like a kid in toy shop and I think I annoyed some people with my geeking’.