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HMS Diamond foils F-15 'attack'

5 Oct 12

Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond tested her mettle against two of the fastest jet fighters in the world when she played cat and mouse with US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles.

HMS Diamond came under mock attack from the American jets during a mine warfare exercise in the Gulf, when Diamond was called upon to escort a force of four minehunters and their mother ship.

The F-15 assault was just one test for the £1bn Portsmouth-based warship as she escorted minehunters during training in the Middle East.

Although IMCMEX12 - International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012 - focused on the ability of some 30 nations' navies to deal with the threat of mines blocking key sea lanes, dealing with underwater ordnance wasn't the only test the various ships faced.

The Type 45 was called upon to shepherd five ships - Britain's HMS Shoreham and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Cardigan Bay, the latter acting as a mother ship, and the USA's trio of mine warfare vessels Devastator, Dextrous and Sentry.

As one of the world's most potent air defence ships, HMS Diamond used her sophisticated radar suite to find, track and finally target the incoming F-15s, simulating launching her Sea Viper missiles to intercept the inbound jets before they could harm the mine countermeasures force.

At high altitude, the F-15 can reach speeds of around Mach 2.5 (3,000km/h). Even at low altitude, where the air is denser and creates more resistance, it can barrel along faster than the speed of sound.

Thanks to her long-range and Sampson radars (the latter is the distinctive 'spinning egg' atop the main mast) and her state-of-the-art command system, Diamond can track scores of contacts up to 250 miles (400km) away - which gives the ship's company under ten minutes to deal with an F-15 at top speed.

Were it for real, such an attack should be relatively straightforward; according to the specifications of Sea Viper, it should be able to knock a target the size of a tennis ball out of the sky, even if it's moving at three times the speed of sound.

As proven on test firings off the Scottish west coast, Sea Viper races towards its target at speeds in excess of Mach Four - nearly 5,000km/h - using a series of tiny jets to manoeuvre, carrying out sharp turns at G forces no human could endure.

Thankfully for the four US aircrew, the missiles remained safely in their silo on Diamond's expansive forecastle.

Watching the awesome sight of the F-15s at full pelt simulating an attack on the Type 45 destroyer were visitors from the Royal Navy of Oman, who joined Diamond for two days to observe the exercise.

The Omani officers had all previously received naval training at Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth; two of the Sub-Lieutenants had only passed out from the college in April 2012. All are currently serving aboard Royal Omani Naval warships and were eager to see for themselves the equipment and practices of their Royal Naval counterparts on board one of the latest Type 45 destroyers:

"It's an honour to sail with HMS Diamond and learn from one of the most professional navies in the world.

"The hospitality and warm welcome we received from the Commanding Officer, Commander Ian Clarke, and his ship's company is highly appreciated," said Commander Ali Bin Musa Bin Suleman Al Baluchi on leaving the British destroyer.

"I wish you all fair winds and following seas."

Diamond is now into the second half of her maiden deployment which, like her older sister HMS Daring, is focused on protecting merchant traffic and promoting the UK's interests in the Gulf region.

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