After some rest and recuperation alongside in Guam, HMS Kent’s sailors were ready to get back into the thick of Carrier Strike Group activities.
The Portsmouth-based frigate is currently in the Indo-Pacific region and has taken part in a number of exercises alongside fellow Royal Navy ships and allies.
Shortly after sailing from Guam, Kent and the HMS Queen Elizabeth-led task group met up with United States carriers USS Carl Vinson and Ronald Reagan as well as Japanese ship JS Ise and vessels from Canadian and Dutch navies.
Weapon Engineering Technician Joe Sanderson is serving on his first ship, having joined Kent in September. He said: “Being the first time to step on a warship following my completion of training is something I am particularly proud of.
“However, on sailing from Guam and to be able to witness the sheer number of ships sailing in formation along with the formation fly-past conducted by F-35 Lightning jets and F-18 Hornets – this will be a moment that I will remember for a long time to come.”
After completing close manoeuvring and sailing in formation, it was time for Kent to take on fuel and other critical stores for the next leg of their journey. Rough weather created difficult conditions for the replenishment-at-sea (RAS) with Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker RFA Tidespring.
“Since deploying with the ship earlier this year we have conducted a number of replenishments-at-sea and although to most people this might seem mundane, no RAS is the same,” said Seaman specialist Able Seaman James Watson.
“This one was particularly tasty given the sea state, but we are all experienced and trained to a high level to conduct replenishments in all conditions.”
While at sea, the ship hosted Captain James Blackmore, the UK Carrier Strike Group Commander Air Wing. He is responsible for and oversees the operations of all aircraft assigned to the task group including Kent’s embarked Wildcat helicopter from Yeovilton-based 815 Naval Air Squadron.
During his visit, Captain Blackmore spoke with the helicopter’s engineers and crew on their experiences so far and their operations. He also chatted to the team in the frigate’s operations room to learn about the ship’s primary function: anti-submarine warfare.
It has been a busy schedule for 206 Flight, including training variant torpedo loading drills. This saw the crew learn and practise how to load a dummy weapon on to the Wildcat on a wet afternoon, with the training continuing into the evening.
Flight observer Lieutenant Maxwell Randles-Hall said: “Rearming an aircraft while rotors are running is an essential aspect of front-line operations. As a newly-qualified observer this training serial provided me with an excellent opportunity to gain an understanding of the challenge it presents the flight’s technicians.
“Manoeuvring an extremely heavy weapon on a pitching and rolling deck is one of the many unique challenges faced by those involved in maritime aviation.”
Along with formation sailing, torpedo drills and port visits, Kent’s sailors also had to ensure their emergency skills were up to scratch with a series of major incident training. This included a fire exercise with a fire in the galley.
Leading Chef Sharon Duffy, team leader for the firefighting team, said: “In a potential deep fat fryer fire in the galley, there are a number of options available to extinguish the fire, be it the chefs on watch using extinguishers or by using the number of isolation extinguishers we have inside and outside the galley.
“In every sense the fire would be out in seconds but for today’s benefit of training we used a ten-man fire team to conduct a re-entry into the compartment that ‘for exercise’ was fully on fire.”
HMS Kent is in Bangladesh where she will remain for a few days before continuing on operations.
Being the first time to step on