Extra activity in the seas in the Minch and west of the Hebrides was already noticeable today (Sunday March 31st), as the international military exercise Joint Warrior got under way.
Mine-sweeping and other mine countermeasure activities are planned for an area east of Lewis, with a number of Royal Navy vessels and ships from Norway, France, Germany and Denmark involved in that element of the exercise, as well as remotely controlled submersible vehicles.
Submarine activity begins to the west of Lewis and Harris on Tuesday (April 2nd) while there will be submarine presence in the north Minch from Thursday (April 4th) onwards.
The Royal Navy has also advised that there will be reconnaissance and challenges from warships from various allied nations in the Little Minch, North Minch and the Outer Hebrides. A small number of contracted civilian vessels including high speed craft will be operating in the Minches in support of this training task. Every effort will be made to avoid interference to fishing vessels.
Stornoway airport is to act as one of the operational bases for air activity during the exercise and the Royal Navy advises that a large number of aircraft will be involved.
Joint Task Force Captain P P Pitcher RN issued a statement ahead of the exercise saying: “There have been instances during previous exercises where aircraft operating at low level over the sea have been illuminated by powerful searchlights from fishing vessels.
"Mariners are reminded that the deliberate and malicious targeting of airborne aircraft has the potential to impact upon aircraft safety and could lead to civil prosecution.”
GPS denial or signal jamming is to be operated from Loch Ewe for 30 minute periods from Wednesday (3rd April) to Wednesday 10th April, with the potential for some interference in Point and east Lochs, depending on atmospheric conditions.
Stornoway Coastguard will broadcast a security message to shipping before and at the end of each jamming period.
Stornoway Coastguard will also regular updates on expected activity and can be contacted at any time in case of any difficulty by operators of civilian craft.
There is a also a fisherman’s hotline number on 01923 956366 which is manned 24 hours a day during the exercise.
In case of any civilian or fisherman finding unexploded ordnance during the exercise, the advice to everyone is not to touch any device and to call 999 and ask for Coastguard or Police.