Royal Navy spent 10,000 hours on NATO operations in 2022
From the freezing Arctic and Baltic, to the endless grey of the North Atlantic and azure waters of the Mediterranean, Royal Navy warships, submarines and aircraft operated side by side with allies and partners, supporting peace and prosperity in Europe following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales served as NATO’s command ship as the Royal Navy led the alliance’s Maritime High Readiness Force – an international task group formed to deal with emerging crises.
Commander UK Strike Force, Rear Admiral Rob Pedre, and his predecessor, Vice Admiral Mike Utley, took charge of the NATO Force in 2022 as the alliance carried out its largest planned exercises in the Arctic since the Cold War along with its regular operations across European waterways, channels and chokepoints.
The Royal Navy now passes on responsibility for leading the NATO Response Force (NRF) to Turkey, but UK operations with the alliance will continue unabated.
A handover ceremony on HMS Victory in Portsmouth saw the NATO flag lowered and passed to Turkish Navy chiefs as they take on the command role throughout 2023.
Rear Admiral Pedre said: “The Royal Navy has delivered at a crucial time for NATO as it has done throughout the history of the alliance.
“The prevailing strategic uncertainty across the globe emphasises once again the critical importance of a unified NATO that is ready to protect the security and prosperity of our allies and partners.
“Throughout 2022, Royal Navy warships, sailors and Royal Marines have been at the forefront of the alliance, working tirelessly not just in our role as the head of the NATO Response Force but across a full range of vital operations.
“Our work never stops but we now handover responsibility for the NRF to Turkey and wish our close NATO ally every success as they take command for 2023.”
The Royal Navy has operated with NATO throughout 2022 – above, below and across the waves – as part of galvanised efforts in the face of the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Two veteran Navy minehunters, HMS Grimsby (62 days) and HMS Hurworth (70 days), spent a combined 132 days working as part of the premier mine clearance task group in the Mediterranean – known as Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Maritime Group 2.
That was followed by Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster which spent 66 days with high readiness forces, operating with ships from the USA, Norway, Portugal, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Denmark.
HMS Defender operated with NATO for 46 days in the Baltic, Arctic and in the Mediterranean – the lattermost deployment saw her attach to Operation Sea Guardian, the alliance’s primary security mission in the region.
Fellow Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond was also in the Mediterranean, deployed with Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, a task force which operates across the region ready to react to events. Diamond spent 31 days working with ships from the US, Italy, Canada, Spain and Turkey.
In colder Arctic climes, Royal Navy ships were heavily involved in Exercise Cold Response – Norwegian-led training and the largest Allied exercises in the region since the Cold War.
Aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Albion, RFA Mounts Bay, HMS Defender, HMS Richmond, HMS Northumberland, RFA Tidesurge, and Astute-class submarine HMS Ambush were all involved in NATO operations in the North.
Below the waves, HMS Audacious, the Royal Navy’s newest and most advanced nuclear attack submarine, carried out NATO security patrols in the Mediterranean on her maiden operational deployment.
Frigate HMS Portland joined NATO’s premier submarine hunters putting the pressure on underwater foes for ten days.
The chilly waters of the ‘Greenland gap’ and Norwegian Sea were the setting for Dynamic Mongoose, the Alliance’s largest test of its anti-submarine forces in the North Atlantic.
HMS Lancaster and HMS Hurworth were at the forefront of NATO autonomous exercises off the coast of Portugal throughout October.
For the month-long trials, more than 11 warships, 120 autonomous vehicles and 1,500 military and civilian personnel from 15 NATO countries tested the use of uncrewed tech – from drones to underwater survey vessels, which could be used by the Alliance on the front line of operations in the future.