Royal Navy warship HMS Northumberland led a multi-national task group in the High North with allies from the Royal Norwegian and United States Navies. Northumberland was joined by Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker RFA Tideforce, Norwegian frigate HNoMS Otto Sverdrup and United States Navy (USN) destroyer USS Thomas Hudner. The ships came together shortly after combined exercises with USN’s Carrier Strike Group 12, which increased knowledge between NATO allies, including the world’s largest ever warship, USS Gerald R Ford, and her escort ships. The High North force aimed to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to supporting and collaborating with Arctic allies, as well as enhancing the Royal Navy’s long history of operating in the region.
Task group Commander and Nortumberland’s Commanding Officer, Commander Will Edwards-Bannon said: “I am hugely proud of the achievements of my team over this demanding operational period which saw Northumberland lead a capable and credible multinational task group in the High North. Alongside our Norwegian and American Allies, with our fellow UK crews of RFA Tideforce and HMS Defender, our operations in international waters were a physical demonstration of the UK’s enduring commitment to the Arctic Council’s vision for maintaining peace, stability and constructive co-operation in the Arctic.”
Operating in the Arctic is not a novel concept for the Royal Navy and multiple deployments to the region have been carried out by Royal Navy warships over the past year, including HMS Kent in April and Northumberland previously in September last year. The Arctic poses challenges that are not faced anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere including strict environmental compliance with the Polar Code, the risk of sheet ice and permanent daylight due to the sun never setting at such high latitude this time of year. Throughout the operation the ships conducted exercises together using their helicopters, including Northumberland’s Merlin Mk2 and USS Thomas Hudner’s MH-60 Seahawk.
The task group also achieved several replenishment serials with Tideforce and a co-ordinated manoeuvring exercise to further develop allied expertise and air-maritime integration. During the operations, sailors from the Type 23 frigate and HNoMS Otto Sverdrup swapped places with each other, to gain experience in how each respective navy operates on a day-to-day basis. Northumberland embedded several of her youngest sailors on board the Norwegian frigate, providing them a great opportunity to form personal friendships and experiences with our NATO allies early on in their careers.