Every weapon aboard HMS Montrose was unleashed as the frigate laid on an impressive week-long demonstration of firepower.
Missiles, guns, torpedoes and decoys were all loosed by the Plymouth-based warship – a display of total firepower known in the Royal Navy as a ‘grand slam’.
One of Montrose’s gunner lets rip with the Minigun. Pictures: PO(Phot) Paul A’Barrow, FRPU East, and HMS Montrose’s ship’s company
EVERY weapon aboard Plymouth-based warship HMS Montrose was unleashed in a rare – and unparalleled – week of dazzling firepower.
Everything from her missile systems down to machine-guns and decoys were unleashed – an event known in Royal Navy terms as a grand slam – over seven days off the coasts of Scotland and Wales.
The ordnance odyssey – believed to be the first time a Type 23 frigate has unleashed as much firepower in a single week – began with a rare launching of two Harpoon anti-ship missiles in the mid-Atlantic, sent hurtling into a target barge dozens of miles away.
Take Gnat… Montrose’s chaff provides an impromptu firework display
That was quickly followed by her Sea Gnat chaff dispensers scattering decoys to distract incoming homing missiles.
Next up, the very rare launch of the onboard Sting Ray torpedoes. Typically fired by the frigate’s Lynx or Merlin helicopter, Montrose and her sisters also carry four tubes – the Magazine Torpedo Launching System – to launch the weapon (which was subsequently recovered from the Sea of Hebrides).
Out you go… A Sting Ray torpedo is thrust out of one of Montrose’s launcher
High-pressure air thrusts the weapon out of the side of the ship, before a tiny parachute slows its descent into the ocean. It’s rarely used as today’s warships prefer to conduct battle with a submarine at arm’s length.
A day of small arms and close-range gunnery against floating targets honed the marksmanship of Montrose’s gunners as they directed the
30mm Automated Small Calibre Gun, a pair of Mk44 Miniguns and all the ship’s General Purpose Machine Guns at floating ‘killer tomato’.
A parachute slows the torpedo’s descent into the water
After that the crowdpleaser weighed in, the frigate’s main 4.5in gun – billed by her weapons engineering department as “the most reliable turret in the fleet”.
To live up to that tag, an entire day of shooting followed with 150 high-explosive rounds landing on targets on a range off the Welsh coast –without a single stoppage or defect.
“The noise was so impressive it led to calls from concerned civilians to Welsh news outlets wondering about the source of all the rumblings and explosions on a Bank Holiday,” said the frigate’s weapon engineering officer, Lt Cdr Tony Marden.
A Harpoon missile leaves its launcher on Montrose’s forecastle
The reliability of Montrose’s ordnance can largely be attributed to the head of the ordnance group, CPO(ET) David ‘Izzy’ Bent.
“It takes many hours of hard work by me and my team to keep our weapon systems at the highest possible operational readiness, but it is worth every minute when they work flawlessly when called upon by command.
And still the Grand Slam wasn’t done. The penultimate weapon system to be tested was her Seawolf missile system – the main line of defence against attacking enemy aircraft and missiles.
Seawolf bursts out of its silo
In this instance, Seawolf’s foe was a target towed behind an aircraft, with the frigate’s principal warfare officer (above-water warfare), Lt Ben Evans, directing the system from the bowels of the operations room.
“One of my key roles on board is the gunnery officer, and this week has been the best of my naval career,” he said. “To fire all of our weapon systems is an incredible feeling, but to do the ‘Grand Slam’ in a week is unheard of.”
Lt Cdr Marden added: “Montrose may well be the only frigate to have fired all of her weapons in a week, and it is testament to the hard work and dedication of maintainers and operators alike that we were able to do so without a hitch. The smell of cordite now permeates the ship – and it gives everyone a lift.”
30mm and Minigun fire is directed at the killer tomato
The final piece of the Grand Slam jigsaw was a ceremonial firing: the saluting gun fired seven times as Montrose entered Plymouth Sound and acknowledged her affiliation with the gunners of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, based at the Citadel.
Aside from the ceremonial, the reason for all this firepower was to fine tune all aboard ready for the frigate’s looming deployment.
The year to date has been devoured by intensive training and exercises, first off Plymouth, then off western Scotland.
Montrose is about to start her final period of maintenance ahead of going overseas for six months – but before she could do so she was required to test all of her armament in realistic conditions, to check system performance and ensure that the Ship’s Company could react correctly when required to fire live munitions.
The saluting gun is fired as Montrose enters Plymouth Sound
“Having now proved all of our anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine weapons systems, everyone on board shares in the success of our Grand Slam,” said the frigate’s Commanding Officer, Cdr James Parkin.
“A warship is the ultimate team, and every missile that hits its target, every round that leaves the barrel of a gun, belongs as much to the chef who cooked breakfast that day, or the stoker who provided the electricity, as it does to the gunner who pulled the trigger, or the engineer who prepared the weapon overnight.
“Montrose is now fully ready to protect our nation’s interests, and if called upon to do so, we have the confidence to know we can fight – and win.”