HMS PORTLAND At Sea (NNS) -- Longtime coalition partners, the United Kingdom and the United States, are taking advantage of training opportunities to increase their interoperability in the Gulf of Aden in case they're ever called upon in a real-world situation.
The visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams aboard HMS Portland (F 79) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) are conducting exercises as mission requirements allow. These exchanges hone the skills of the respective teams while at the same time strengthen professional understanding and knowledge among both countries' crews.
During the VBSS drills, the U.K. team practices their boarding techniques on Mahan, while the destroyer boards the British frigate as part of simulated scenarios.
"It is essential to practice our boarding techniques as often as possible and against a variety of vessels," said Lt. Francis Griffiths, Portland's boarding officer. "We have to remain current if we are to be ready to respond at a moment's notice to any type of mission."
While the Royal Navy boarding teams 'fast-roped' from Portland's Lynx helicopter onto the forecastle of Mahan, the Brits' rigid-hull inflatable boats approached the ship. Once alongside, the British sailors boarded the Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, "securing" it, much like they would in the event of a pirate encounter in international waters.
"Piracy is an international problem that requires an international solution," said Ensign Ian Townsend, Mahan's boarding officer. "Working and training together will help us more effectively combat the piracy menace. Training with Portland's outstanding team of professionals was a valuable experience, and we hope to have the opportunity to work with them again soon."
After Portland's VBSS team practices their boarding techniques, its U.S. counterparts respond in kind by boarding and securing the frigate, practicing what they would do to board and search suspected pirates' vessels.
"Observing how our coalition partners conduct their business was a vital part of today's exercise," said Griffiths. "Every boarding is different, and understanding each other's capabilities helps us to improve our own skills.
"Working with the USS Mahan's well-trained team, as part of the coalition's efforts to counter piracy in the region, is a huge bonus, and I hope to be able to train with other coalition partners in the coming months."
Both Portland and Mahan are on patrol in the area's busy sea lanes, which boasts heavy commercial shipping traffic. They are currently operating with the newly formed Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 conducting counterpiracy operations but as required remain available to conduct a wider range maritime security operations with CTF 150.
Combined Task Force 151 is a multinational task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.
For more news from Combined Task Force 151, visit www.navy.mil/local/CTF-151/.