Exercise Joint Warrior JW 19:2
Twice a year the UK hosts Exercise Joint Warrior which is designed to enable the armed forces of participating countries to practice procedures and operate as a multi-national coalition. The event incorporates a wide variety of training scenarios, and each one may include small boat attacks, boarding operations, large-scale amphibious assaults, air defence and anti-submarine warfare. Joint Warrior 192 officially ran from Saturday 5 October to Thursday 17 October 2019 but I was abroad on holiday at the beginning of the month, so missed the arrival and departure of the participating naval vessels which traditionally gather on the Clyde for a briefing prior to the commencement of each exercise. Most of the warships tie-up at either Faslane or Glasgow’s KGV Dock to give their crews some shore time before the hard work begins and Sunday has become the main departure day when most vessels head out to sea to take up station.
JW191, held in April this year, was a large-scale event but JW192 involved substantially less naval units and is thought to be one of the smallest ever. However, Exercise Griffin Strike which ran concurrently, tested the capabilities of a new UK-France Combined Joint Expeditionary Force which has been set up to respond to any future crisis affecting the two countries. Since 2010, the UK and France have been working together to develop the combined force, which when operational could draw on 10,000 personnel. It is due to be fully operational by next summer and could be deployed on humanitarian relief missions, short-term peacekeeping, or of course military intervention.
On 19 September 2019, Britain’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, sailed from Rosyth Dockyard for the first time to begin her initial sea trials off the northeast coast of Scotland. Just 24 hours after she sailed into open water, a Merlin helicopter was guided safely into land on the expansive deck, the first aircraft to do so. Prince of Wales is only the second ship in the world after HMS Queen Elizabeth to be built from the hull upwards, specifically to operate the fifth generation F35B Lightning II Joint Strike fighter. These shots, courtesy of the Royal Navy website, show the carrier entering the Scottish port of Invergordon, north of Inverness, on 25 October 2019. Invergordon is one of the few harbours in the north of the UK able to accommodate these 65,000 tonne warships. Once the initial trials are complete, Prince of Wales will make her way to her home port of Portsmouth where she will be officially commissioned into the Royal Navy by her Lady Sponsor, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
Usually fighter squadrons from one or more nations participating in Joint Warrior base themselves temporarily at Lossiemouth but as far as I`m aware none did so on this occasion. Various RAF types would have been involved though including support and tanker aircraft. It`s also possible that F-35s played a part, flying to the exercise area directly from their base at RAF Marham in Norfolk. I took the shots on the right at this year`s Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford.
On 24 October, the Royal Navy announced that a British F-35 had been `tooled-up` for the first time on the deck of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier, namely HMS Queen Elizabeth. Weaponry typically carried on a strike mission, totalling 22,000lb of destructive and defensive power, was loaded onto the external pylons and into the bomb bay. Included were inert Paveway laser-guided bombs and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles for dealing with aerial threats.
On the run-up to any Joint Warrior, or while it`s underway, there`s always the chance of a military aircraft belonging to the UK, Canada, the USA or a NATO ally stopping in at Glasgow, however, the appearance of C-130H Hercules, serial number 1217 of the United Arab Emirates Air Force on the morning of 1 October was very unusual and not thought to be connected with Joint Warrior as the UAE is not one of the participating nations. However, military representatives from around the world are sometimes invited as observers and watch proceedings from the control centre.
This aircraft, which dates from 1976, is currently operated by the UAEAF`s 4 Squadron but originally bore the South African registration ZS-JIY, having been delivered to the civilian carrier Safair who subsequently leased it to Air Botswana. Safair, which was established in 1969, is based at OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg and operates one of the world's largest fleets of civil Lockheed L-100 Hercules cargo aircraft. This Herc was acquired by the UAEAF in February 2010. It parked up on the northside and left the next day but returned on the 20th, possibly to pick-up personnel.
Pre-exercise, Glasgow hosted Modified Georges Leygues-class Frigate FS La-Motte-Picquet (D645) and Tripartite-class Minehunter FS Éridan (M641), both of which sailed upriver on the afternoon of Wednesday 2nd October. Another French Navy Tripartite vessel, FS Cephee (M652) had berthed at Faslane earlier. French Air Force Airbus A330-223 F-RARF, call-sign `CTM 1275`, did a go-around of Runway 23 at 20:20 hours on Tuesday 15 October, probably on a standard training sortie rather than Joint Warrior related. This is one of two VIP-configured A330s currently used by the Armée de l'Air`s Commandement du Transport Aérien Militaire Français (COTAM) and often carries the French President and his entourage on state visits. As of September 2019, COTAM also operates a pair of Airbus A310s, two A340s and 15 Airbus A400s.
On Friday 18 October, the day after JW / Griffin Strike had officially ended, French Air Force Transall C-160R, serial number R217 visited Glasgow International, its appearance likely connected with the latter exercise. Also passing through that day was USAF Beechcraft MC-12W Liberty 10-0742, call-sign `ELVIS 11`. Dassault Falcon 10 MER, serial number No.32 of the French Navy landed on Wednesday 16 October and made an overnight stop.
In service since April 1975, the type`s roles include providing Instrument flight rules (IFR) and night flying training, service flights on behalf of the Navy's staff officers plus various support missions in the 2ème Region Maritime (Second Naval Area) for Atlantic Command ships. Like their counterparts operated by UK-based Cobham Aviation, the French Navy Falcons can also act as enemy aircraft to train ships` crews in intercepting hostile targets. The Marine jets are also used to calibrate ships' radars and firing systems.
Royal Navy and RAF Hawks, plus several civilian-registered Dassault Falcon jets of Cobham Aviation usually fly from Prestwick while any Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPAs) operate from RAF Lossiemouth but, as in April, the latter types joined the others at the Ayrshire airport, a real bonus for local enthusiasts. This relocation is due to ongoing construction work at the Moray base to accommodate the RAF`s new P-8 Poseidons, the first of which is scheduled to arrive next spring.
The JW192 Maritime Patrol Aircraft comprised 2 x US Navy P-8’s, 2 x Canadian CP-140’s and 2 x French Navy Atlantique ATL2’s which between them flew numerous sorties over the fortnight, each aircraft on station for an average of 4 hours at a time. I only went down to Prestwick once during the exercise, on Friday 11 October, and although there wasn`t a great deal of JW activity. I managed to photograph most of the participants, albeit not always at the best angle.
I wasn`t around for the JW warships at the start of the event, however, on Wednesday 16 October as the exercise wound down, HMS Albion (L14), RFA Argus (A135) and FS Tonnerre (L1094) dropped anchor off Greenock. Two helicopters were active when I went along in the afternoon: French Navy Aerospatiale SA319B Alouette III, serial number 1997, operating from FS Tonnerre and Aerospatiale SA365N2 Dauphin 2 ZJ164 of the Royal Navy flying from HMS Albion.
The French Navy`s Tonnerre is a Mistral-class LHDM Amphibious Assault Ship, which is no stranger to the Clyde having taken part in previous Joint Warriors as well as forming part of the ‘guard of honour’ along with HMS Ark Royal for the QE2 when the famous liner made her last visit to Scotland back in October 2008. Tonnerre can embark 450 fully-equipped troops and 60 armoured vehicles, or 13 main battle tanks, along with Landing craft and up to 16 helicopters.
HMS Albion (L14) is the lead ship of two Albion-class Assault Ships, the other being HMS Bulwark (L15). These vessels can transport up to six Challenger 2 main battle tanks or around 30 armoured all-terrain tracked vehicles. The floodable well dock has the capacity to take four utility landing craft while four smaller landing craft, each capable of transporting 35 troops, are suspended on davits.
The Albion-class ships support a permanently embarked Royal Marines landing craft unit, and the stern opens and floods a compartment, allowing the boats inside to be launched. Although there is no hangar, the 64-metre flight deck can handle a pair of Chinook-sized helicopters, or operate two smaller machines with the space to stow a third.
Below: Launched in 1981, Italian-built, RFA Argus was formerly the container ship MV Contender Bezant. The vessel was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship, replacing RFA Engadine. After a four-year conversion at Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Argus entered Royal Fleet Auxiliary service in 1988. In 1991, during the Gulf War, she was fitted with an extensive and fully functional 70-bed hospital to assume the additional role of Primary Casualty Receiving Ship.
In 2009, the PCRS role became the ship's primary function and the medical complex was upgraded and now holds 100 beds. Argus can carry four Merlin or five Apache helicopters and although it can land a Chinook, the larger aircraft won't fit in the hangar. As the ship is armed and is not painted in the required white with red crosses, the Geneva Convention prevents her from being officially classified as a hospital ship. Argus is due to remain in service until 2024.
I took a flight with Loch Lomond Seaplanes toward the end of the month and although Joint Warrior had long-since ended, RFA Lyme Bay (L3007), a Bay-class Landing Ship Dock, was berthed at the head of the Gareloch and an unidentified RN sub, thought be an Astute-class, had just arrived at the base. It`s not known whether either of these vessels had been involved in the exercise.
The following slideshow contains general views of Faslane and additional shots of RFA Lyme Bay and other naval vessels in the area when I flew over...
Only one US Navy P-8 Poseidon, serial number 169426 / YD took off while I was at Prestwick. 169008 and 169325 were also present.
Although the Cobham jets are civilian, they work closely with the MOD and play a major role in proceedings.
The Falcons are equipped with onboard systems and special electronic warfare mission pods for radar and communications jamming, threat simulation and electronic surveillance. The Falcons also act as hostile airborne targets for the warships by running in at low-level to simulate a sea skimming missile, or 'launch' simulated missiles electronically which the navy can track and respond to with their defensive systems.
A couple of Hawks were towed out of the hangar late morning but didn`t take to the air until the afternoon, after I left.
Three Canadian Air Force CP-140 Auroras were present on the 11th, namely 140104, 140116 and 140118, the latter having arrived that day.
Back at Glasgow Airport, RAF Boeing MH-47E Chinook HC.5 ZH902 `call-sign `Onslaught 1` arrived about 11:20 hrs on Thursday 17 October and parked on the Royal Pan where it was refuelled. The Chinook is an extremely capable and highly versatile support helicopter that can be operated from land or sea bases into a range of diverse environments, from the Arctic to the desert or jungle. Chinooks are fitted with a suite of self-defence equipment and can be armed if deployed to an area of threat. They are primarily used for troop transport, resupply and battlefield casualty evacuation (CASEVAC).
Up to 55 troops or a maximum of 10 tonnes of mixed cargo can be carried. With it`s triple-hook external load system, internal cargo winch, roller conveyor fit and large reserves of power, the helicopter can lift a wide variety of complex underslung cargo or internal freight, including vehicles.
Naval vessels photographed while Joint Warrior was running, but not involved in the exercise were the last three of five Batch II River-class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) that are being built on the Upper Clyde for the Royal Navy. Pictured here at BAE Systems Scotstoun yard are HMS Trent (P224), HMS Spey (P234) and HMS Tamar (P233). The lead ship, HMS Forth (P222), currently in service was followed HMS Medway (P223).
The vessels were built at the BAE Systems Govan shipyard, then transferred to Scotstoun for fitting out. The five Batch IIs will replace the current River-class vessels Tyne, Severn, Mersey and Clyde, which were designed and built over 15 years ago. The new vessels, which are a big improvement on their predecessors, will act as the RN's eyes and ears around the UK, help to safeguard fishing stocks, reassure and protect Falkland Islanders and deploy to the Mediterranean and Caribbean if necessary.
The Batch IIs are four knots faster than their predecessors, carry a 30mm, rather than a 20mm main gun, two Miniguns, four machine-guns and two Pacific 24 sea boats. Each ship is equipped with a flight deck (only Clyde of the first generation craft can host a helicopter) and there's accommodation for up to 50 troops/Royal Marines to support operations ashore if needed.
By the end of the month, HMS Trent (above) had sailed upriver to the basin at BAE`s Govan yard. Large sections of the company`s latest construction project on the Clyde, the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, could be seen both inside and outside the assembly shed. In August 2019, a ceremony was held at Govan to mark the formal start of manufacture on the second of the class, HMS Cardiff. This comes two years after steel was cut on the lead ship, HMS Glasgow. Momentum on Glasgow continues with over one half of the ship now in production and she remains on track to enter service in the mid-2020s. BAE Systems also won the contract to build nine units of a modified version of the Type 26 concept vessel for the Royal Australian Navy in Adelaide. These warships will be designated as Hunter-class. (All artist`s impression images © BAE Systems).
Only eight of the original total of 13 requested for the UK`s Royal Navy will now be built with HMS Belfast on order to complete Batch 1. Batch 2 will comprise Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh and London. The famous Second World War era light cruiser HMS Belfast (C35), currently a museum ship on the Thames owned and operated by the Imperial War Museum, will be renamed as "HMS Belfast (1938)" to avoid confusion. The previous HMS Glasgow and HMS Sheffield became household names due to their service in the Falklands War of 1982.
The new vessels, designed and built in Glasgow, are advanced ASW frigates designed for the critical protection of the Continuous At Sea Deterrent and Carrier Strike Group. The sections visible are all likely to relate to HMS Glasgow.
The City-class Type 26 will build on the pedigree of the Royal Navy’s current Type 23 Anti-Submarine Warfare frigates which have served the Nation well. Each Type 26 will be equipped with a range of capabilities including the Sea Ceptor missile defence system, a 5-inch medium calibre gun, flexible mission bay, Artisan 997 Medium Range Radar, powerful bow and towed array sonars and a vertical launch silo capable of hosting a variety of weapons.
I took these shots of the previous HMS Glasgow (D88) as she departed the Clyde after her visit to Glasgow in February 1983. It was the Type 42 destroyer`s first visit to the city after the Falklands War of 1982 and around 5,500 people, including myself, had been welcomed on board during an open day at Yorkhill Quay. HMS Glasgow was among five Type 42 destroyers that formed part of the Task Force sent to retake the Falkland Islands following an Argentinian invasion. An exclusion zone was put in place around the islands and Glasgow saw action early in the campaign when, on 2 May, her Lynx HAS.MK 2/3 helicopter, along with a Lynx from HMS Coventry, attacked and severely damaged a small Argentinian patrol boat with Sea Skua missiles.
On 3 May 1982, Glasgow was acting as air-defence picket when she detected an inbound air-launched Exocet missile. She broadcast a warning but HMS Sheffield (left) failed to receive it and was sunk. Glasgow and Coventry were left to provide long range fleet defence as the other two warships of the Task Force were still in transit from the UK.
On 12 May, Glasgow and the Type 22 frigate HMS Brilliant were attacked by Argentinian A-4B Skyhawks. Glasgow`s Seawolf anti-air missile system failed and she was struck by a bomb which fortunately failed to detonate but caused considerable damage and effectively put her out of the fight.
Following the Falklands War HMS Glasgow continued to perform duties around the globe including further patrols in the South Atlantic. She was decommissioned in 2005 and in 2009 she fell victim to the breakers` yard.
HMS Tamar - An Update
On 15 November, HMS Tamar (P233), the fourth of five Batch 2 River-class Offshore Patrol Vessels being built on the Clyde for the Royal Navy, headed out to sea to start her sea trials in the afternoon sunshine. I caught her passing from the Riverside Walkway at Erskine, then again further west toward Bishopton, at Longhaugh Point.
During the winter months hundreds of geese tend to feed in the fields around Glasgow Airport, then relocate to preferred locations close to the south bank of the Clyde for their overnight roost. With the river at their backs foxes can`t approach from that direction so the birds feel far less vulnerable. Newshot Island at Erskine attracts large numbers every year as does Longhaugh Point, from which a large flock took to the air as HMS Tamar and her attendant tugs passed-by.