Hunt a submarine and drop torpedoes to eliminate the threat. It had been a while since the Royal Navy had practiced this scenario. But during Autumn Archer last week, all the ingredients were in place to go through every step of the anti-submarine warfare properly.

Frigates HNLMS Van Amstel, HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën and BNS Louise-Marie.

Frigates with sonar, check. NH90 maritime attack helicopter (with sonar), check. Practice torpedoes, check. Practice target, check. Ships of the Royal Navy and Belgian Navy had everything on board to practice their skills in Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW). It is important to maintain these skills because of the increased insecurity in the world and the fact that potential adversaries such as Russia have modern submarines.

During the exercise in the Skaggerak, the part of the North Sea between Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Van Amstel and De Zeven Provinciën used their sonars to detect targets. They received support from the Belgian M-frigate Louise-Marie.

The practice enemy this time was not a Walrus-class submarine, but a new underwater drone. This so-called SEMA is smaller, similar to a torpedo, but gives a signature that recognizes a sonar as a submarine. “For example, we are not dependent on the use of a real submarine if we want to practice ASW,” says Lieutenant 1st Class Maaike, anti-submarine warfare expert at the Maritime Warfare Centre. “The use of a submarine is more difficult in terms of planning and also expensive.”

After a positive identification, the Dutch frigates and NH90 launched practice torpedoes to attack the target. But without actually destroying SEMA. The practice torpedoes and drone were removed from the water so that experts can analyze stored data. “We have achieved our training objectives,” said naval officer Maaike. “We can still do it. All units have experienced what it is like to use our resources adequately.”

The 3 frigates remain at sea and join fleet associations to participate in major international exercises such as Joint Warrior near Scotland. Here too, ASW is an important theme to gain and share knowledge and experience. The ships will return to their home ports in mid-December.