HMS Kent Tests Weapon Systems

High pressure air propels the Sting Ray out of its launcher

HMS Kent flexed her muscles after the summer break by firing up most of her weapons systems – including the rare launch of a torpedo.

To prepare herself for front-line duties later this autumn, the Portsmouth-based frigate sent high explosive shells hurtling out of the main 4.5in gun to calibrate muzzle velocity (they should burst out of the barrel at more than twice the speed of sound), test fired machine guns both on the ship and her Pacific 24 sea boats, streamed out her Sonar 2087 towed array (a 1,700-metre ‘tail’ lined with hydrophones and Kent’s best ears when hunting submarines) and firing off a Sting Ray, one of two weapons she uses to take out those underwater threats.

After a demanding 2021 as part of the carrier strike group which deployed to the Indo-Pacific, the pace in 2022 has rarely slackened for Kent.

Following post-deployment maintenance she was straight into active duties again, culminating in six weeks of intensive training off Plymouth just before the summer break.

While most crew enjoyed summer leave, the ship herself underwent a mix of maintenance and upgrades… hence the run through most systems upon returning to sea this month.

Sting Ray is principally launched by a Merlin Mk2 (which can also drop depth charges to deal with hostile submarines).

Ideally the combination of Sonar 2087 and Sting Ray-armed Merlin should keep underwater threats at bay, well out of range of striking distance of Kent.

But if not the ship carries horizontal launchers – just forward of the Portsmouth frigate’s hangar – which use high pressure to propel Sting Ray out of its tube, before the small drogue parachute deploys to slow its entry into the water.

Thereafter, the torpedo – packing a 100lb explosive charge to ruin any submariner’s day – races through the water at more than 50mph until it strikes its target.

In this instance the explosive charge was replaced by concrete in a training variant of the torpedo, which was recovered at the end of its run.

“Following on from intense engineering periods, it is essential to fully test weapons and sensors, particularly ahead of deployment,” explained Lieutenant Commander Will Jones, Kent’s Weapons Engineer Officer. “It’s also important that the ship’s embarked Flight have the chance to properly integrate with the ship’s company.”

Enter the new Merlin Flight, provided by Culdrose-based 814 Naval Air Squadron (the Flying Tigers) integrating with crew, conducted vital training including secondary roles such as winching, emergency landing and a simulated crash on deck.

Kent’s Commanding Officer Commander Jez Brettell was delighted with the short but intensive workout for his team.

“Ensuring the peak performance of the ship’s weapons and sensors is of paramount importance,” he said.

“The trials period was highly successful as it also ensured our new Flight integrated properly as part of the Kent team.”

The frigate is now gearing up for the main military exercise in the UK this autumn, Joint Warrior, which begins in Scotland on Saturday involving around two dozen ships and submarines and more than 30 helicopters and aircraft.

The trials period was highly successful as it also