Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Green Goddess – the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS , as part of a larger international flotilla on a visit to Dublin (Eire) after completing exercises in Scotland.     Bathed in green light to recognise the local national colour whilst berthed at Alexandra Docks for the weekend,   In  Eire, of course, 2013 as a year of celebration of Irish culture.    The lighting effect (special green lamps and a projector) was provided as a courtesy by the ship’s friends at the Worshipful Company of Lightmongers.

DRAGON Be Here – MONMOUTH Gone – the Type 45 Destroyer DRAGON has arrived in the Gulf to relieve the Type 23 Frigates MONMOUTH which will now head home after six months “East of Suez”.   The two Welsh affiliated warships met up in the warm waters of the Gulf of Aden to carry out the transfer of responsibilities from outgoing frigate.
Royal Navy Bomb Disposal – Bomb disposal in the maritime world falls among the many responsibilities of the Royal Navy Clearance Divers, who now have a new weapon in their arsenal to deal with the terrorist threat in the form of a £ 1m bomb disposal robot, known as CUTLASS.    The CUTLASS has a multiple articulated weapons boom which replicates the movements of a human arm, allowing the operator unrivalled access to an enclosed space, like a vehicle. It is controlled via computer and fibre optic link with advanced optics allowing exceptional visual awareness of the area and any device.    The sophisticated new remote controlled vehicle, should give the Royal Navy’s Diving Teams the edge in bomb disposal.    The six wheeled CUTLASS can be used to remotely neutralise homemade bombs – improvised explosive devices – left by terrorists and is being introduced to the Southern Diving Group, based at Plymouth.

Afghan Largely Done For Marines -   A Company/40 Commando RM have returned to Norton Manor, Taunton, (Somerset) having served in main operating base Price, in the Nahr-e Saraj District, for the past six months – the last time the Royal Marines will deploy to Helmand Province.   45 Commando RM were the first to deploy to Afghan in 2001.    40 Commando RM will take leave and then begin training for contingency operations, providing part of the UK’s amphibious warfare capability.     Some Royal Marines will remain serving in Afghanistan on an individual basis, working alongside their colleagues from other services, as the UK continues to support the development of the Afghan National Security Forces.

Of course the Fleet Air Arm is still on duty in Afghan.

Commodore Maritime Reserves – the was a change of “Commodore” for the Maritime Reserves at a  handover ceremony which took place onboard the First Sea Lord’s Flagship, HMS VICTORY.  The Maritime Reserves are set to see an expansion in numbers and an increase in roles and we wait for news of this.
Joint Forces Command – the Joint Forces Command has reached full operating capability and brings together more than 30,000 military and civilian personnel to ensure that joint capabilities are correctly prioritised.    The Joint Forces Command has the unique ability and opportunity to assist “the transformation of UK Defence whilst delivering critical capabilities required for success on operations” .    In addition to thousands of personnel working in Cyprus, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and the British Indian Ocean Territory, Joint Forces Command also includes the Defence Academy (at Shrivenham, Wiltshire) and Defence Intelligence and cyber capabilities.    Quite naturally a General is in command of this new formation has taken over from an Air Chief Marshal

42 Commando RM Landing – as part of Exercise Joint Warrior some 200 Royal Marines Commandos  attacked four 'enemy' positions near Cape Wrath (Scotland) having embarked on the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS they were landed several miles inshore of Cape Wrath by CHINOOK HC.2/3 and SEA KING HC.4  helicopters to attack the target positions.   Gunfire support came from the Type 45 Destroyer DIAMOND, the Type 23 Frigate WESTMINSTER plus the 105 mm Light Guns of 29 Commando Regiment RA, additional explosive power came from the Royal Marines own 81 mm Mortars, along with those of the Swedish Marines also taking part.
Those Who Stand and Wait and Still Serve – if you thought we had seen the last of the onetime British India managed Knight Class of Landing Ships dating from the 1960’s think again.   The Royal Fleet Auxiliary RFA SIR TRISTRAM, commissioned in September 1967, and which played a vital part in the Falklands adventure, being diverted in April 1982 from Belize to the Falkland Islands for Operation Corporate, and in June while transporting men and equipment to Fitzroy Cove alongside the RFA SIR GALAHAD, was attacked by Argentine A-4 SKYHAWKS which strafed the decks, killing two of the crew, and a 500 lb bomb penetrated the deck, but failed to explode immediately, allowing the remaining crew to be evacuated.     
Following the later explosion, the RFA SIR TRISTAM was abandoned and later used as an accommodation ship by the Royal Artillery, initially in Fitzroy, and later was towed round and moored in Port Stanley, until 1984.   The damaged hull of the RFA SIR TRISTRAM was later recovered from the Falklands by the heavy lift ship DAN LIFTER and extensively rebuilt.   The RFA SIR TRISTAM re-entered active service in 1985, and saw service in the Gulf War, and the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, and the supported relief operations for Hurricane Mitch off Central America.    In 2000 the ship was deployed to Sierra Leone in support of British operations there, followed by a cruise to the Baltic Sea in support of Minecountermeasure Vessels..    Early in 2001 the RFA SIR TRISTAM returned to Sierra Leone to take over from sister ship RFA SIR PERCIVAL supporting British forces ashore there.      In 2003 the RFA SIR TRISTAM was deployed as part of the largest British fleet for twenty years in support of the invasion of Iraq.    The RFA SIR TRISTAM was decommissioned in December 2005 but continued to be used for training purposes by the Special Boat Service, and more or less disappeared from the vide view.  At some stage the vessel became known as the Training Vessel TV TRISTRAM.

Now in 2013, with ship in the 46th year of a long career the vessel is to undergo a 60 day refit, employing 50 personnel with the work being carried out in Portland Harbour and comprises the manufacturing and installing a viewing platform throughout the length of the tank deck, which is now used for Special Forces Training.      In addition a new pontoon will be designed and connected to the hull for access for personnel, materials and equipment and be accessed by a newly designed secure gangway system.     Other works involve sewage system tank renewal, repairs to the mooring chain system, renewal of on board electrical generators complete with renewal of the electrical distribution system. Steelwork repairs throughout the vessel will be carried out with substantial deck composition repairs in way.    The vessel will be painted from funnel top to waterline whilst afloat and includes the entire superstructure, funnel, decks and hull to the water line.    UK Docks are the Contractors for this work being a merger of the Tyne Slipway and Wear Docks with their extensive marine engineering facilities.

If and when we get round to having a Falkland Museum if our national heritage in the TV TRISTRAM we have a very suitable candidate for preservation, when the Special Boat Service have finished with the ship which does not now seem to be in the near future.
The Glencore NavyGlencore, one of the large names in the commodity markets, and a major shipping operator in its own right, using various trading names, have a great deal of experience with the question of piracy.    A Private army” backed by Glencore Chairman (Simon Murray) is set to begin anti-piracy operations off Somalia in the next few months under the name Typhon.    The Typhon website says very little (very little indeed) other than the tag line “Marine Convoy Protection” From March this year (2013) Typhon should have started protecting ships off in the region with at least three vessels to support convoys and have around 240 former marines and other service personnel employed (according to the Sunday Times).   According to a promotional video: "The Typhon force will be the first of its kind for probably 200 years and will protect private shipowners assets at sea”.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Joint Warrior Battle – During the Joint Warrior Exercise and Royal Navy Task Force was attacked by a “swarm” of Fast Boats – the Task Force comprised the Fleet Flagship, the Assault Ship BULWARK, the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, the Type 45 Destroyer DIAMOND and the Type 23 Frigate WESTMINSTER.   The ‘asymmetric threat’ posed by small ships is ever present to the larger warships, especially when in formation, and though their upper decks now carry small arms as a defence in many ways it is as unequal.   Whilst the main armaments of these vessels and usually superfluous in such actions the automatic Miniguns (30mm cannon), which fire up to 6,000 rounds a minute are ideal, and these are backed up by the good old standby, the M3M .5 calibre general purpose machine guns that are now mounted.   The LYNX HMA.8 of the embarked Flight from 815 Naval Air Squadron also plays a vital part in the defence of the Task Force using the long range her infra-optic camera system.

As the swarm gathered for the attack, they charged out of the Scottish lochs and inlets, some 30 Fast Boats, JetSkis, RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) and even Tugs all had a part to play in the massed attack by the small, agile, rapidly moving boats.
Missed Opportunity in the Bahamas ? – the former Crown Colony on the Bahamas, and an Independent Commonwealth Realm in 1973, (retaining HM The Queen as monarch), has a significant maritime commitment and has a considerable need to upgrade its capabilities in this area.   It is thus disappointing to learn that the Dutch Damen concern, building on its success with building tugs and ancillary craft for SERCO at the behest of a MoD Contract to replace much of what was the former Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service fleet, have secured the first of a series of contracts to re-equip the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.   Damen is to build nine (9) vessels for the Bahamas, and help them upgrade all three (3) local naval bases.    Project Sandy Bottom” involves:-
                        Four (4) Offshore Patrol Vessels (Damen SPa 4207)
                        Four (4) Coastal Patrol Boats (Damen SPa 3007)
                        One  (1) Support Ship (for logistics and disaster relief), (Damen RoRo 5612)
It is astonishing – did any British Company tender for this business ?    The Bahamas is largely an import, service economy heavily dependent of the USA affiliated businesses mostly associated with tourism and banking.    With few domestic resources and little industry, they import nearly all its food and manufactured goods from the United States who are favoured by Bahamians due to cultural similarities and heavy exposure to American advertising.  So what did the Dutch have ?
Glasgow’s New Reserve CentreHMS DALRIADA (Gaelic for the overkingdom on the western coast of Scotland) has returned to Govan (Glasgow) after a twenty year absence - the Royal Naval Reserve unit has recently relocated to the city following a £1 m investment to provide modern training facilities and support for the Ship’s Company of 75 Naval Reservists.      HMS DALRIADA was previously located at Greenock, a town on the south bank of the Clyde in the west central Lowlands of Scotland, (Renfrewshire in old money).
MINEX 13-1 – A NATO Exercise – was headed up this year by the Hunt Class Minecountermeasure Vessel CATTISTOCK which took place of the coast of Spain involving ships from Spain, France, Turkey and the Royal Navy.     MINEX 13-1 tested NATO forces against a variety of threats such as fast attack craft and terrorist drones whilst dealing with a complex mine counter-measures battle.   This exercise is the latest in a series of mission rehearsal events that the CATTISTOCK is undertaking as the lead ship in NATO’s Standing Naval Mine Counter-Measures Group 2.   

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Fisheries Research South Georgia Style – it is the fishing companies who work with the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands to conduct fisheries research during the fishing season. Research has included stock surveys, ground surveys and migratory surveys with each fishing vessel carrying an observer provided by Marine Resources Assessment Group Ltd to provide written reports.   The Marine Resources Assessment Group Ltd is an outstation of the Department of International Development based in Queen Street (London), with the observers are paid from the revenue generated by the sale of fishing licences to fishing companies.     One of the problems with long line fishing has been the presence of killer whales (orcas) and sperm whales, which can strip a long line of fish as the line is being brought to the surface.     The industry in conjunction with a Spanish University in Santiago and an acoustics company devised a method of scaring off orcas and sperm whales. The method worked for a short time, but soon the whales recognised the sound as the dinner gong!     The only solution appears to be to stop fishing.     Ongoing trials with a modified line system have proved to be far more successful.

Joint Warrior 2013 - One of the largest military exercises in Europe is underway off the coast of Scotland involving more than 40 warships, 40 fixed-wing aircraft and 30 helicopters from the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, France, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Germany, over 12,000 personnel are taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior.   Getting the twice yearly exercise underway, were seven warships from the UK, the Netherlands and Canada sailed in formation yesterday from the east coast of Scotland round to the west where they will join up with the rest of the Task Group today.

Events began on Barry Buddon beach in Barry, Carnoustie, where Royal Marines from 42 Commando RM launched an the first ever parachute as part of Exercise Joint Warrior as the Marines regenerate their amphibious skills drawing on their Afghanistan experience,       The SRS Troop of 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group whose role is to collect and understand information on an area prior to the arrival of the main 3 Commando Brigade force and maintains a parachute capability in order to be as flexible as possible across a broad range of potential reconnaissance tasks.    VIKING vehicles were also brought ashore by landing craft from the Assault Ship BULWARK

The Royal Navy has more than a dozen warships and submarines taking part, including the Fleet Flagship, the Assault Ship BULWARK, the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, the Type 45 Destroyer DIAMOND, four Type 23 Frigates MONTROSE, RICHMOND, SUTHERLAND and WESTMINSTER, the Survey Ship ECHO with the Fleet Submarine TALENT also present.  These were supported by the Hunt Class Minecountermeasure Vessels BROCKLESBY and HURWORTH and the Sandown Class Minecountermeasure Vessels GRIMSBY and PEMBROKE.

Rotary transport is being provided by CHINOOKs of the RAF and SEA KING HC.4 of the Commando Helicopter Force, plus some Fleet Air Arm Airborne Surveillance and Control SEA KING ASaC.7 helicopters plus assorts LYNX HMA.8 and MERLIN HM.1 from the shipboard flights of the destroyer and frigates taking part.   The main media interest however seems at this stage to revolve around the tale of the seal.   As well as items such as newspapers, the bulk of the resupply was a consignment of 1,813 litres of fresh and UHT milk – brought over from Carnoustie to the BULWARK by Royal Marine Landing Craft prior to going on exercise.   When the Landing Craft was launched a seal joined the exercises by swimming into the loading dock of the BULWARK and stayed aboard for about half an hour.
The Mad Ratters Tea Party  - Work on the largest (ever) programme to eradicate rats and mice from South Georgia is falling behind the planned schedule as continued windy weather in target areas towards the northern end of the Island is preventing the helicopters from baiting.    Throughout March 2013 unrelenting winds have kept the baiters waiting, sometimes as long as ten days, for a chance to work.     Despite the poor weather, the baiters have already completed three complete Baiting Zones, and almost exactly half of the rat infested land area targeted for this season.      In just three hours of baiting, with all three helicopters working, they can remove rats from 28 square miles of land.     The helicopters cannot spread bait safely and accurately with more than a moderate wind speed, so weather forecast charts and weather reports from the field parties put out to watch for breaks in the weather are eagerly analysed in search of elusive patches of slow-moving air.
South Georgia Visitors – the Ice Patrol Ship PROTECTOR has made a first ever visit to South Georgia during which surveyors from the vessel were put ashore to install tide gauges both at KEP and on the to assist with survey work in the area.     Surveys were carried out in the Cumberland Bay and Stromness Bay areas using the specifically designed 10.5m survey jet boat JAMES CAIRD IV which is similar to the two boats used by Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands as harbour launches at King Edward Point (KEP) (the main difference outwardly is the “wrap around” windows of the survey vessel).   The PROTECTOR used its dynamic positioning capability to hold position in KE Cove instead of anchoring. Captain Rhett Hatcher only joined the PROTECTOR as Commander in the Falklands before the ship sailed to South Georgia, but has previous experience in the South Atlantic as he was Flight Commander on the Type 22 Frigate BRAZEN when the vessel was on South Atlantic patrol.    One of the many tasks performed by the PROTECTOR during the ship’s visit was to collect empty fuel drums from Husvik and transporting them round to KEP for the rat eradication project.

The German Research Vessel POLARSTERN arrived in Cumberland Bay in late March 2013 and undertook science work in the bay overnight before dropping off a science field party at Jason Harbour. The vessel will be in the South Georgia and South Sandwich region for a few weeks.   In March 2013 six cruise ships visited Grytviken but only two more tourist vessels are due this season, in early April 2013.    The other traffic was made up of one trawler (fishing for icefish) at the beginning of the March calling in at Cumberland Bay to drop off scientific samples and equipment before heading for Punta Arenas, (Chile).    In the South Sandwich Islands longline fishing (for toothfish) has started and by the end of the month two longliners had been inspected and licensed in Cumberland Bay before sailing for the fishing grounds.    Catches so far have been variable but both vessels have completed their Total Allowable Catch in the Northern area and are now fishing in the Southern area.

South Georgia – or more correctly South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, SGSSI in the world of abbreviations, is a British Overseas Territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean.   We will include the maritime defence aspects of this far flung outpost in our reporting in future so some background seems appropriate.    It is a remote collection of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands, known as the South Sandwich Islands. South Georgia is 104 mile long and 23 miles wide at it’s widest (the Isle of Wight by comparison is only 23 miles in length and 13 miles in width).     South Georgia is by far the largest island in the territory.    The South Sandwich Islands lie about 320 miles southeast of South Georgia.     There is no native population on the islands; the present inhabitants are the British Government Officer, Deputy Postmaster, scientists, and support staff from the British Antarctic Survey who maintain scientific bases at Bird Island and at the capital, King Edward Point, as well as museum staff at nearby Grytviken.

After the Falklands War (1982), a fulltime British military presence was maintained in the Falklands but also at King Edward Point on South Georgia, though this was scaled down during the 1990s until the last detachment left South Georgia in March 2001, after a new station had been built and occupied by the British Antarctic Survey.    The main British military facility in the region is of course at RAF Mount Pleasant and the adjacent Mare Harbour Naval Base on East Falkland.    Apart for the Falkland Guardship, the Patrol Vessel CLYDE and small craft the main naval presence is made up of a Royal Navy destroyer or frigate and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker which carry out the Atlantic Patrol Task (South) mission in the area.   The Royal Navy Ice Patrol Ship PROTECTOR and the two British Antarctic Survey vessels RRS JAMES CLARK ROSS and RRS ERNEST SHACKLETON are season visitors.

Argentina maintained a naval station, Corbeta Uruguay on Thule Island, one of the South Sandwich Islands, from 1976 until 1982 when it was closed by the Royal Navy. The Argentine claim over South Georgia contributed to the 1982 Falklands War.     The Island of South Georgia is said to have been first sighted in 1675 by Anthony de la Roché, a London merchant, and was named Roche Island on a number of early maps.    It was sighted by a commercial Spanish ship named LEON operating out of Saint-Malo in June 1756 and has been confused with Pepys Island, discovered by Dampier and Cowley in 1683, but this proved to be a phantom island.      Captain James Cook circumnavigated the island in 1775 and made the first landing. He claimed the territory for the Kingdom of Great Britain, and named it "the Isle of Georgia" in honour of HRH King George III and the British arrangements for the government of South Georgia were first established under the 1843 British Letters Patent.      Throughout the 19th century, South Georgia was a sealers' base as well as a whalers' base beginning in the 20th century, until whaling ended in the 1960s. A Norwegian, Carl Anton Larsen, established the first land based whaling station and first permanent habitation at Grytviken in 1904. It operated through his Argentine Fishing Company, which settled in Grytviken and the station remained in operation until 1965.     In 1882–1883, a German expedition for the First International Polar Year was stationed at Royal Bay on the southeast side of the island and the scientists of this group observed the transit of Venus and recorded waves produced by the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa.

Seven whaling stations operated under leases granted by the (British) Governor of the Falkland Islands and were all of on the north coast with its sheltered harbours were, starting from the west:

·         Prince Olav Harbour (from 1911–1916 factory ship and small land-based station 1917–1931)
·         Leith Harbour (1909–1965)
·         Stromness (from 1907 factory ship, land-based station 1913–1931, repair yard to 1960/1961)
·         Husvik (from 1907 factory ship, land-based station 1910–1960, not in operation 1930–1945)
·         Grytviken (1904–1964)
·         Godthul (1908–1929, only a rudimentary land base, main operations on factory ship)
·         Ocean Harbour (1909–1920)
With the end of the whaling industry, the stations were abandoned and apart from a few preserved buildings such as the museum and church at Grytviken, only their decaying remains survive.

In 1908, the United Kingdom issued further Letters Patent which established constitutional arrangements for its possessions in the South Atlantic. The Letters Patent covered South Georgia, the South Orkneys, the South Shetlands, the South Sandwich Islands, and Graham Land and this claim was extended in 1917 to include a sector of Antarctica reaching to the South Pole.    In 1909, an administrative centre and residence were established at King Edward Point on South Georgia, near the whaling station of Grytviken. All these events took place prior to the Argentine claim in 1927 for South Georgia.

During the Second World War, the Royal Navy deployed an armed merchant vessel to patrol South Georgian and Antarctic waters against German raiders, along with two four inch shore guns (still present today) protecting Cumberland Bay and Stromness Bay, manned by volunteers from among the Norwegian whalers. The base at King Edward Point was expanded as a research facility in 1949/1950 by the British Antarctic Survey, which until 1962 was called the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey.

Captain James Cook discovered the southern eight islands of the Sandwich Islands Group in 1775, although he lumped the southernmost three together, and their status as separate islands was not established until 1820 by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen.    The northern three islands were discovered by Bellingshausen in 1819.   The United Kingdom formally annexed the South Sandwich Islands through the 1908 Letters Patent, grouping them with other British held territory in Antarctica as the Falkland Islands Dependencies.   All this preceded the Argentine claim on the South Sandwich Islands made in 1938.   The smaller islands and islets off the coast of South Georgia Island include:

                       Bird Island                    Cooper Island                 Grass Island                  Pickersgill Islands
                       Welcome Islands          Willis Islands                 Trinity Island
With some remote rocks also considered part of the South Georgia Group:
·         Shag Rocks 115 miles west-northwest of South Georgia Island
·         Black Rock 105 miles west-northwest of South Georgia Island and 16 km (9.9 mi) southeast of the Shag Rocks
·         Clerke Rocks 35 miles east-southeast of South Georgia Island
The Montagu Island (South Sandwich Islands) comprises eleven mostly volcanic islands (excluding tiny satellite islands and offshore rocks), with some active volcanoes. They form an island arc running north-south in the region about 350 miles and 500 miles southeast of South Georgia.   The northernmost of the South Sandwich Islands form the Traversay Islands and Candlemas Islands groups, while the southernmost make up Southern Thule. The three largest islands – Saunders, Montagu and Bristol – lie between the two. The South Sandwich Islands are uninhabited, though as mentioned above there was a permanently manned Argentine research station was located on Thule Island (1976-1982).    There are automatic weather stations on Thule (Morrell) Island and Zavodovski where to the northwest is the Protector Shoal, a submarine volcano.

Fishing takes place around South Georgia and in adjacent waters in some months of the year, with fishing licences sold by the territory for Patagonian toothfish, cod icefish and krill. Fishing licences bring in millions of pounds a year, most of which is spent on fishery protection and research. All fisheries are regulated and managed in accordance with the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources system.   The South Georgia Fisheries Protection Vessel is the 1,986 GRT 1993 built PHAROS SG a former Northern Lighthouse Tender, bought in 2006 by Byron Marine Limited of the Falkland Islands, and operated by them under a long term Charter to the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands as a fishery patrol and logistic support vessel, which has a helicopter deck.

Tourism has become a larger source of income in recent years, with many cruise ships and sailing yachts visiting the area and the only way to visit South Georgia is by sea, since no airstrips currently exist on the Islands. The territory gains income from landing charges and the sale of souvenirs. Cruise ships often combine a Grytviken visit with a trip to the Antarctic Peninsula.   Charter yacht visits usually begin in the Falkland Islands, last between four and six weeks, and enable guests to visit remote harbours of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Sailing vessels are now required to anchor out and can no longer tie up to the old whaling piers on shore, though one exception to this is the recently upgraded/repaired yacht berth at Grytviken.     All other jetties at former whaling stations lie inside a 656 foot exclusion zone; and berthing, or putting ropes ashore, at these, is forbidden.     Postage stamps and postal history of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are a significant source of income.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

DRAGON Ready – The Type 45 Destroyer DRAGON, en route to the East of Suez deployment visited the NATO base at Souda Bay on the north shore of Crete, which is home to a specialist training complex for boarding teams and FORACS (FORces sensors and weapons Accuracy Check Site) which tests the myriad of sensors, communications, radars and sonars to ensure that they are in full working order, allowing NATO ships to pass crucial information to each other accurately.   Next stop the Suez Canal,

The Royal Navy has been using the ranges at Souda Bay since 1984 – on this occasion the Boarding Team of the DRAGON hit the water with Greek Forces to hone their skills, and the embarked LYNX HMA.8 made the short flight to Chania airfield, home to the Hellenic Air Force’s 115 Fighter Wing.   The Royal Navy has had a long involvement with the island of Crete prior to 1984, not least during the Second World War!

ARK ROYAL Gone – the former Royal Navy Flagship, the Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL will be scrapped and leave Portsmouth in Mid May 2013.    Proposals to reuse the ARK ROYAL included turning the ship into a commercial heliport, a nightclub and school, or a casino - but ultimately the Government decided to sell the warship for recycling firm Turkish firm Leyal for just £2.9m.    The demise of the ARK ROYAL followed the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, which saw the Nations HARRIER fleet (of 72 aircraft) sold to the USA for around £110m.    This brings a whole new (and low) meaning to the phrase value for money!!
Saudi Visit by RAMSEY – the Sandown Class Minecountermeasure Vessel RAMSEY, currently based in the Gulf has visited the King Abdullahaziz Naval Base in Saudi Arabia.   A full programme of social activities followed and the ship’s Dive Team explored the coastal waterways with colleagues from RSNF Ship HMS AL-SHAQRRA, a Saudi Sandown Class Minecountermeasure Vessel, (one of three).

GUADELOUPE AID from the WAVE KNIGHT – the Fleet Tanker RFA WAVE KNIGHT will be participating in Exercise Caraibe 13, a joint exercise with French Navy, local regional Maritime forces with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary cooperating to provide relief to Guadeloupe following an earthquake.   The RFA WAVE KNIGHT has loaded Humanitarian and Disaster Relief and UK Department for International Development stores to support relief operations in the region.

Naples Comes to Northwood – the cuts are not only affecting the Royal Navy – the NATO Maritime Headquarters in Naples is now closed, after six decades of service.   The Allied Maritime Command Naples, a mainstay of peacekeeping operations since the early 1970s, closed at the end of March.     There is now a single Allied Maritime Headquarters at Northwood (Middlesex).   The Northwood Headquarters “stood up” (in the jargon) and after a period of transition has taken over the ongoing Operation Active Endeavour (which started in 2001), the fight against crime, terrorism, drug and people trafficking in the Mediterranean.    

Royal Navy personnel have served at the Naples Headquarters in its various guises throughout its lifespan and can trace its history back to NATO HQ Allied Forces Mediterranean, opened in Malta in March 1953, led by Earl Mountbatten of Burma.      With Greece and Turkey joining the NATO alliance and France, Italy and the UK already members, the Mediterranean became an integral part of NATO’s defensive structure.    It moved to Italy in 1971 as HQ Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe, firstly in temporary accommodation, then to a permanent home on the island of Nisida – an inactive volcano with a flooded crater just west of Naples.
TEMA Port - the Type 23 Frigate ARGYLL visited the port of Tema (Ghana) with awnings rigged and white ensign backdrops, as the vessel was to host a delegation of politicians, academics and military personnel gathered to discuss maritime security off West Africa and the Royal Institute of International Affairs, (a non-profit, non-governmental organisation from London, better known as Chatham House) held a conference on board.   A very full programme of demonstrations of the capabilities of the frigate were displayed, and links with the Ghanaian Navy strengthened.    On completion of the tasking in the Atlantic, the ARGYLL will undertake a number of important regional engagement visits before returning home in September 2013.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Changing of the Guard – the new head of the Royal Navy has taken charge at a ceremony in the “Great Cabin” on Nelson’s Flagship, H.M.S. VICTORY - leaving the post after a forty three year naval career was First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, after nearly four year in the top post.   Admiral Sir George Zambellas is now the First Sea Lord.   

Nelson’s Flagship, H.M.S. VICTORY is also the Flagship of the present First Sea Lord having previously being the Flagship of the Second Sea Lord.    The standard of the First Sea Lord is of course the Cross of St George.

After discussions with the American Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert and Amiral Bernard Rogel of the French Navy, and the (UK) Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards; Admiral Stanhope made a farewell address to staff at the Royal Navy’s Headquarters on Whale Island (Portsmouth).     The Admiral Stanhope and his wife joined the Fast Patrol Boat SMITER for a farewell sail past of warships of the Portsmouth Flotilla, who manned ship, doffed caps and gave three cheers – the Royal Navy’s time honoured salute.     Admiral Stanhope commanded two submarines during his career, the Patrol Submarine ORPHEUS and the Fleet Submarine SPLENDID, he also held command of the Type 22 Frigate LONDON and the Aircraft Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS.

The new First Sea Lord Admiral Zambellas joined the Royal Navy in 1980, served as a helicopter pilot, then commanded “Hunt” Class Minecountermeasure Vessel CATTISTOCK, the Type 22 Frigate CHATHAM, the Type 23 Frigate ARGYLL before taking charge of the UK’s amphibious forces at the time of the introduction of the Assault Ships ALBION and BULWARK.   Most recently Admiral Zambellas has held the second most senior post in the Royal Navy, that of Fleet Commander.     Whilst Admiral Zambellasas was in command of the CHATHAM (in 2001), the ship was deployed off Sierra Leone, “Operation Palliserfor which service he received the Distinguished Service Cross.

We wish Sir George well with his new post.
ECHO Launched the 70th Anniversary Event – the Survey Ship ECHO helped launch the impending Battle of Atlantic events in Liverpool with veterans joining the ship as the vessel sailed into port.     Fresh from gathering data in the Irish Sea, the ECHO sailed up the Mersey into the heart of Liverpool which will be the focal point of five days of events in May 2013.    The launch coincided with six NATO warships departing the Mersey after a short break – these were the Mine Countermeasures Group, currently being lead by the Polish ORP which had been taking a break between training off Zeebrugge and joining the latest Joint Warrior Exercise off Western Scotland that begins shortly.

ASTUTES On The Cusp - Both of the Royal Navy’s new Fleet Submarines in service, the ASTUTE and AMBUSH will deploy on front line operations within the next twelve months.   After years of trials and testing the ASTUTE will be ready for action before the end of the year, followed by the AMBUSH early in 2014 according the Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Philip Jones.    ASTUTE will complete “hot weather trials” and operational sea training and will then be available to deploy.

Japanese to Allow the Carriage of Armed Guards on Japanese Flagged Vessels ? - the Japanese Government is planning to submit a bill to the National Diet which will permit the carriage of armed guards on Japanese flagged vessels.    The Japan Times reported that the bill would permit the armed guards to operate on Japanese ships based on a commonly held view that their presence on other vessels in waters off Somalia has led to a sharp fall in piracy.      If this proposed legislation is approved, Japanese ships will be permitted to employ private security contractors to provide armed guards.
Joint Warrior Exercise 2014 – this sequence of exercises off Western Scotland that begins shortly will see many NATO allies, participants will include Belgium, Germany, Holland, France, Norway, Denmark, Canada and Sweden    The Royal Navy representation will be lead by the Fleet Flagship, the Assault Ship BULWARK and the Type 23 Frigate SUTHERLAND.