Flying Tigers take part in NATO submarine hunting exercise 100320 CREDIT Royal Navy

Royal Navy Takes Part In NATO's Largest Mediterranean Exercise

Exercise Dynamic Manta tested Navy submarine hunters "to the max" in the Ionian Sea.

Flying Tigers take part in NATO submarine hunting exercise 100320 CREDIT Royal Navy

The Royal Navy has taken part in NATO's biggest exercise in the Mediterranean. 

Exercise Dynamic Manta - a two-week exercise that took place off the coast of Sicily - saw 20 Navy aircrew from 814 Naval Air Squadron search for five submarines in their Merlin helicopters. 

Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Turkey, Britain, the US and hosts Italy all took part in the exercise.

The British submarine hunters shared the skies with five long-range maritime patrol aircraft, plus anti-submarine helicopters, including the Italian version of the Merlin, the Navy said.

The aircraft placed sonobuoys, an underwater listening device, along suspected submarine routes in the Ionian Sea to detect any suspicious underwater movements.

If successful, the helicopters were directed in for the kill, lowering their dipping sonar into the water to confirm a submarine’s location and identity before "destroying it".

Submarine taking part in NATO's Exercise Dynamic Manta 100320 CREDIT Royal Navy
An aerial view of a submarine on Exercise Dynamic Manta (Picture: Royal Navy).

It was not purely a hunting exercise, with the submarines tasked with evading the "ring of steel" drawn around the eight surface ships to score points of their own.

Commander Sarah Birchett, Commanding Officer of 814 Naval Air Squadron, said she believes her team will return home at the “top of their game”.

"My more experienced operators welcomed the thrill of the chase again and my junior aircrew enjoyed their first front-line NATO exercise with submarines, surface ships, helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft in deep waters environment,” she said. 

The training is one of two NATO exercise run each year to best both the 'hunters' and the 'hunted'.

NATO's submarine hunting Exercise Dynamic Manta 100320 CREDIT Royal Navy
NATO ships sail in the Ionian Sea (Picture: Royal Navy).

One takes place in the warm waters of the Mediterranean and one in the cold waters of Norway as the different seas can affect the performance and effectiveness of sonar.

Describing Dynamic Manta as “one of the most challenging exercises” the alliance run, Rear Admiral Andrew Burcher, head of NATO submarine operations, said: “As countries continue to develop and build submarines, they become quieter.

“So it's important that we improve our ability to find those quiet submarines.”

Cover Image: Royal Navy Merlin helicopter at Sigonella air base in Sicily (Picture: Royal Navy).