A major naval exercise by members of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is now underway off the coast of south west Europe.
A major naval exercise by members of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is now underway off the coast of south west Europe. Force from the U.S.A., Canada, West Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom are taking part.
The exercise, code-named Ocean Safari 77, began last week and is scheduled to last 12 days. More than 60 surface ships and submarines are involved as well as 250 aircraft. The central theme is support -- the survival of NATO armies in Europe in any future war would depend on their receiving a flow of supplies and reinforcements, mainly by sea. Ocean Safari 77 is a test of NATO's ability to keep open the vital life lines across the Atlantic and through the western approaches to Europe.
The job of these warships is to act as escort for two groups of supply vessels heading for the English Channel under mock attack from 'enemy' planes, warships and submarines. Long range patrol aircraft from bases in England and Portugal are providing continuous air cover.
The British aircraft carrier Ark Royal is a key part of the strategy, supplying much of the muscle for striking back at enemy operations. With a rescue helicopter hovering nearby, in case of take-off or landing accidents, Phantom jets prepare to attack the 'enemy'. As well as mock strikes at enemy ships, exercise Ocean Safari includes attacks launched at sea on targets in Europe.
The versatile Phantom, armed with air-to-air missiles, is an all-weather fighter which takes little notice of adverse weather conditions, like rain.
The Ark Royal heads the British contribution to the exercise -- more than 16 vessels the largest number from any one country, including an anti-submarine warfare carrier, three destroyers, five frigates and six submarines.
A number of nuclear-powered submarines from the United States are also taking part in exercise Ocean Safari, which is due to end on Saturday.