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Major shake-up for RN divers

DIVERS WORKING ON HMS PRINCE OF WALES
(Lee Blease / Royal Navy)

In what Royal Navy clearance divers describe as their biggest shake-up since 1996, the long-standing Fleet Diving Squadron has been reshaped into small, elite mission teams said to be better equipped to deal with the latest threats. They are now called the Diving & Threat Exploitation Group (DTXG).

Based in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Faslane, RN divers’ tasks include explosive disposal of historic ordnance and rendering improvised explosive devices safe in the UK, as well as clearing sea mines and deterring terrorists overseas. 

They can also carry out emergency underwater maintenance on warships – as well as “discreet special operations”. 

The new, smaller dive teams will be able to carry out more missions while continuing to train with NATO and other allies globally, says the DTXG.

In the coming months of 2022 they will deploy to the USA, France, Norway and Iceland, while maintaining a presence in the Middle East alongside partner nations and deployed ships, such as Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose, the minehunters Middleton, Bangor, Chiddingfold and Penzance and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship Lyme Bay.

RN divers working on the hull of HMS Prince of Wales in Portsmouth in February (Lee Blease / Royal Navy)
RN divers working on the hull of HMS Prince of Wales in Portsmouth in February (Lee Blease / Royal Navy)

“This once-in-a-generation transformation has enabled the Royal Navy’s clearance divers to be the most agile, lethal and technically advanced they have ever been,” commented DTXG commanding officer Commander Sean Heaton.

“Capable of locating, exploiting and disposing of threats to the Royal Navy and the UK’s interests, all while remaining ready to conduct emergency underwater maintenance to our ships and submarines.”

New skills

The DTXG’s explosives exploitation experts are Echo Squadron. Lt-Commander Tom Forbes said of his unit: “This transformation means we can focus our attention on becoming experts in the field of maritime exploitation of conventional and improvised explosive devises and munitions – a capability that doesn’t exist anywhere else across UK defence.

“It will give us great flexibility to explore new exercises in countries we haven’t worked in before. It’s a really exciting time for us to develop new skills and evolve the way we contribute to future operations.”

RN divers working in Portsmouth in February (Lee Blease / Royal Navy)
RN divers working in Portsmouth in February (Lee Blease / Royal Navy)

The Royal Navy is now led by Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft-carriers, and the shake-up will enable its divers to embark routinely on these warships. “This new way of working means we aren’t remaining static and we’re moving with the times,” said Able Seaman (Diver) Ian  Sanderson of Delta Squadron, deployed with HMS Queen Elizabeth

“With the navy undergoing changes, it’s important we remain relevant and this transformation shows we can have significant impact.”

“This is the biggest and most exciting transformation period for the diving squadron in a generation,” added Chief Petty Officer Carl Thomas of the special operations unit Alpha Squadron. “We recognise and embrace modern, innovative technology such as autonomous underwater vehicles and remotely operated vehicles to deliver operations and enhance training.”

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