Seb H Profile picture
20 Feb, 35 tweets, 10 min read
#OnThisDay #gulfwar30

Another quick snapshot of what life was like onboard a warship on this day in 1991, down the Gulf. A disclaimer. It’s been thirty years and my memory has doubtless failed me on some minor details. 1/
I might have one or two things a little off but the idea is to give non-naval types an idea of what it was like during those busy days we had

So HMS Exeter is in a swept box, about 10 miles East of Kuwait. USS Wisconsin and USS Missouri are conducting shoots at targets ashore 2/
Meanwhile we continue to provide air defence for the battleships, and cover the allied mine hunters as they sweep further safe transit lanes for the next box north of us. Mine warning remains red, air raid warning yellow. The Chemical Rule is in force, 3/
and Iraqi use of CBRN weapons is expected.

We are in defence watches, as we have been for weeks, and it’s time to go on watch. Action Stations had sounded off five hours ago, after intermittent indications of Iraqi aircraft to the north west and the detection by USS Jarrett 4/
of what she thought was a fighters radar. So after being stood to on the after gundeck watching US battleships shelling shore batteries, there had barely been time to grab a plate of pot mess in the junior rates dining hall before closing up. 5/
A quick cup of rank tea made with long life milk and a fag in the starboard passageway, then the process of handing over. The usual “Quiet handover in the ops room!” shouts from CHOPS(R) as I walk in.

Pitch black and illuminated only by the amber glow of radar displays and 6/
faintly lit switches and dials. Smell of ozone. Electrics. Hiss of static and then robot like voices from a speaker on the comms desk by the ops room entrance, and above it the tiny hatch that gives the RO the ability to take and receive signals from the main communications 7/
office next door. Ahead the large flat radar display for the PWO (Principal Warfare Officer) and ACPS (Action Picture Supervisor). The low hub as the off-going watch is relieved in stages, so the continuity of operations is not disturbed. I walk in and turn right, I’m in GOP 8/

In my opinion, the best position in the ops room on a warship was the GOPC General Operations Plot Compiler. Because? You can stand up. It’s hard to explain how painful eight hours at a radar display can be. Back then, the seats were thinly padded with a vertical 9/
backrest, and you were elbow to elbow with operators either side of you. Even turning the pedestal mounted chair was nigh on impossible, because everyone had battle bags and respirators hanging off their seat. There was no leg room to speak of, and you sort of hunched over 10/
the desk upon which your built in keyboard and tracker all were mounted. You wore a headset for eight hours, stared at a bright radar screen and if manning a net such as TGHF ( task group reporting HF) that meant hours of static and voice transmissions that quickly gave you a 11/

THE GOPC position was different. A flat horizontal glass plotting table just above waist height, set in a corner on the starboard side. It ticked, like a clock, because in effect it was a mechanical chart with which you used dials lower down to set your course and 12/
speed. A point of light projected up and through the chart and tracing paper overlay you had on the glass. Above it and your head, a long sloped panel with red indicators for ships course and speed, and a communication selection panel. And a spotlight on a flexible mount to 13/
compliment the two low light shuttered bulbs over the chart. You had a headset and Jack, but could get away at worst with having it over one ear only as you listened in to a comms net or the internal Action Information (AI).

A mechanical plotting table? Sounds old even for 14/
1991. The modern SNAPS (ships navigation and plotting system) that worked off the ships gyroscope or GPS was a thing in the fleet, but for some reason many Type 42 destroyers like HMS Exeter didn’t have it. Our Admiralty Research Laboratory plot did however have a makers 15/
plate stamped 1946. I remember that distinctly.

To the right and behind was a raw radar display called a JUD. Unlike the ADAWS displays in the ops room, which had system allocated symbology and track numbers, the JUD was a simple radar picture from our 1006 surface search 16/
set. To be honest it was a pain, taking up quite a bit of room and was rarely used because you needed chinograph pens to constantly update it. However, mounted on shock absorbing struts, you could have a doze by it or even under it.

To the left the GOPC would look down a 17/
row of displays. The HC (Helicopter Controller) and his assistant (HC(A). The FC (Fighter Controller), the Surface Picture Compiler (SPC), Surface Picture Reporter (SPR), the Surface Picture Supervisor (SPS) and then the two 996 radar air trackers.

Finally, behind the plot 18/
directly a desk next to the PWO’s display, with two tv monitors for the bridge wing mounted EOSS cameras, which swept the sea ahead of us constantly in day or IR mode, looking for moored and free floating mines.

The GOPC was a plot that traced its linage back to the 19/
Victorian Navy when Officer Of The Watches on the bridge would ‘plot’ the position of the ship using latitude and longitude, a parallel ruler, pencils and dividers, and in 1991 we were doing the same. It was archaic, and it worked, because when all power was lost and the 20/
radars and combat system went down, the chart could still be run. And best of all was the GOP gave the overall picture in different scales. At a tactical level we could plot an anti-submarine action and use a different chart to give the captain an overall theatre view.

The GOPC or assistant (GOPC(A) would stand at the plot, and mark dozens of things on the chart with its attendant overlay. Every three minutes, our own position. Position of friendly and enemy ships. Radar emission detections we called rackets. Minefields. Friendly maritime 22/
patrol aircraft ‘boxes’. Enemy shore batteries. Periscope sightings and helicopter sonar buoy strings. It was rarely quiet in the GOPC corner because if you were not updating your own position by getting a lat and long off the nearest radar display panel (called a ‘tote’ ) 23/
you were plotting things contained in signals that regularly came in . Everything had its own symbology and colour.

And every known and again as you lent over the chart with your pen and ruler, marking up the plot, a shadow would appear behind you and the Skipper would be 24/
there, in his white overalls and anti flash, and he’d politely ask to have a look, standing there staring for a few seconds, and then a question or two:-

“When were these battery positions last updated GOPC?”
“Midnight sir, and these south of Kuwait City an hour ago”
A pause 25/
“Have you got the next swept box position yet?”
“Negative sir. We’ve marked up Adroit and Hurworth here [points] and we assume they are working the next transit channel”
Another pause
“Very good. Thanks GOPC”
And off he’d go back to his display.

Handover done. 26/
Two tins full fat Coke on the little cable run/shelf by the JUD. Bag of sweets. Four signals waiting to be updated on the chart. Two minefield updates and two artillery battery positions. In two minutes we will need to update our own lat and long, the four other ships within 27/
four miles, the sweepers north and then.....

A sudden loud whistle blast from the EWD (Electronic Warfare Director)


Followed a second later by the PWO...

Controlled but urgent activity. A Russian made Iraqi search radar has just swept over the ship and could be a precursor to a missile launch. The Zippo is the code name for a pre-determined response that cuts down of individual orders required. The Seadart Director, who 29/
controls the ships Seadart missile system, has a voice that you could hear at a rock concert and you hear him order....

“Fore and aft 909’s stand-to”

The Skippers voice suddenly loud, clear and calm on AI....

“Officer of the watch captain. Come right to course 30/
three zero zero ten knots. PWO...Sound actions stations”

And the klaxon blares as you pull up and over your anti-flash hood and HMS Exeter prepares for what might be coming. ENDEX

That was another snippet from Dom Antcliff’s #gulfwar diary from the ops room of HMS Exeter🇬🇧⚓️
The picture is a 42 ops room but some years later. It gives an idea of how congested it was. Looking to port from the GOPC position, the HC and FC desks, surface team and in the distance, 996 and furthest the 1022 trackers. 1/2
The large bulky structure to the left with all the black cables coming out is the rear of the captains and XO’s positions. Normally the lighting would be much lower.
PWO’s display with XO’s and Captains position behind.

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More from @sebh1981

18 Feb
#Onthisday1991 #gulfwar30

Today thirty years ago we had completed a swept lane transit through the minefield, followed by Wisconsin, Princeton, Tripoli and Jarrett as seen in this picture.

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