Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond (foreground)
with US Navy carrier the USS Enterprise Picture MOD 2012
HMS Diamond has joined the USS Enterprise to exercise with US Carrier Strike Group 12 in the Middle East and demonstrate the Type 45's outstanding air defence capabilities.
During the exercise warfare specialists in Diamond's operations room helped to choreograph sorties of F-18 Super Hornets and other aircraft, which add to the Carrier Strike Group's potency.
As her sister ship Daring did just a few months ago, Diamond joined forces with the 'Big E' to show how a Type 45 destroyer can shield a task group from air attack - exactly what she was built for.
The £1bn Royal Navy warship can track multiple targets courtesy of her Sampson radar and take them out, if necessary, at ranges of up to 70 miles (113km) away courtesy of the Sea Viper missiles in the silo on her forecastle. And she can also direct strike missions by guiding aircraft onto targets as well as generally co-ordinating friendly air activity.
The Portsmouth-based warship took her place alongside Enterprise's more usual escorts, the cruiser Vicksburg and the destroyer Nitze. Whilst providing protection to the Carrier Strike Group, Diamond was able to close in to just 500 metres of the Enterprise, giving her ship's company a 'ringside seat' to US carrier operations.
Diamond's crew observed as the F-18s were catapulted off the deck of the Enterprise - which is the longest warship in the world, longest-serving carrier in the world and the world's first nuclear-powered carrier - and, when their missions were complete, touch down safely, brought to a halt by arrestor wires.
The exercises also allowed for an exchange of US and UK sailors, known in international naval circles as cross-pollination, sharing knowledge and experience among the ships.
Lieutenant Commander Mark Headley, Diamond's Air Warfare Officer who hosted the American visitors on the British ship, said:
"Working with the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group has been a fantastic opportunity to build on Royal and US Navy understanding. The knowledge gleaned will help the Royal Navy maximise the exciting opportunities offered by the Type 45 destroyers."
Chief among those visitors was Rear Admiral Walter Carter, Commander of Carrier Strike Group 12.
The Admiral liked what he saw aboard Diamond during a comprehensive tour of the 8,500-tonne warship, and what her ship's company did during the destroyer's time in the company of the Enterprise. He sent a signal to Diamond's Commanding Officer, Commander Ian Clarke, which read:
"Bravo Zulu to HMS Diamond on an outstanding performance. You have integrated brilliantly and I am looking forward to working with you again in Carrier Strike Group 12."
The USS Enterprise is in the final months of her active life (her first major mission was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962) and is due to decommission in December 2012.
HMS Diamond has resumed her maiden deployment duties, helping to provide security and stability in the Gulf region.
For that wider maritime security mission the Type 45 warship carries a Royal Marines team from 43 Commando who, together with members of Diamond's own company, specialise in boarding operations - a task which can put them in harm's way.
An F-18 aircraft takes off from the USS Enterprise Picture MOD 2012
To prepare them for every eventuality, the combined boarding team undergoes weekly first aid training courtesy of the medical team and the impressive sickbay facilities.
Every week a different topic is covered - anything from minor accidents while undertaking normal duties to injuries that could be sustained during boarding operations. The team are coached through scenarios and then offered the chance to critique one another's performance.
Captain Richard Hughes Royal Marines, in charge of the commando detachment aboard Diamond, said:
"This invaluable training instils the confidence within the Royal Marine and Royal Navy Boarding Team that every member is able to effectively carry out lifesaving treatment."