Thursday, 27 June 2013

RICHMOND On Thames – the Type 23 Frigate RICHMOND sailed up the River Thames and went alongside at Thames Quay, West India Dock at the start of a five day visit to the capital.     Following a brief maintenance period in Portsmouth, the RICHMOND put trainee submariners through their paces off the west coast of Norway whilst taking part in a multi-national Submarine Command Course.  In March (2013) the RICHMOND embarked navigation students from the Maritime Warfare School for an intensive training programme covering several thousand miles along the South Coast of England, Irish Sea, Western Isles, Orkneys and Channel Islands.    Later that same month the RICHMOND completed a pre-deployment  milestone by completing two successful firings of the SEA WOLF surface to air missile system off the south coast of England.    Currently the RICHMOND is finishing a period of high intensity training, and will soon undertake a comprehensive maintenance period before deploying later this year.

Malta ECHO – the Survey Ship ECHO paid a twelve day visit to Malta on the first stage of the ship’s eighteen month deployment to the Mediterranean and Middle East.   The ECHO has been a recent visitor to Malta as in the 2012, at the end of the previous 19 month deployment to the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean the ship visited Malta.
Far Seeing DUKE – the Type 23 Frigate IRON DUKE after 16 months out of action undergoing a major overhaul has returned to sea.  Apart from all the usual trials to restore the vessel to operational service they will include the testing one of the world’s most advanced radars.   The IRON DUKE will be the first ship in the Royal Navy to be fitted ARTISAN – a 3D Radar which spins atop the main mast and is five times better than the old radar it replaces, and is packed with anti-jamming features.       This is part of a £100m programme to fit the Type 23 Frigates as well as the two future Aircraft Carriers.   It is also expected that the ARTISAN Radar will be the principal air radar for the Type 26 Frigates – referred to a “combat ships”.

The ARTISAN is claimed to be able to spot something as small as a cricket or tennis ball travelling at three times the speed of sound more than 15 miles away.    It’s built out of the same lightweight carbon glass fibre materials found on a Formula 1 cars and weighs just 1,540lb and as well as being able to track up to 800 targets simultaneously, it can do so if they’re 200 yards from IRON DUKE or 125 miles away!
TRIUMPH Stars – At Armed Forces Day at Devonport the Fleet Submarine TRIUMPH made an appearance before deployment following an extensive routine maintenance and regeneration period.    Once deployed the TRIUMPH will embark on a number of anti-submarine warfare exercises to support the Submarine Command Course – better known as the “Perisher” – before becoming fully operational.
PENZANCE Working Up – the Sandown Class Minecountermeasure PENZANCE is in the throes of demanding training sequence after completing a six month half life refit at Rosyth.   The PENZANCE is also preparing for duties with a NATO Task Group later this year.    The PENZANCE is due to relieve the Hunt Class Minecountemeasure Vessel LEDBURY in the currently German led NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2, currently ranging the Mediterranean.

Red Rose Island Hopper – the Type 23 Frigate LANCASTER is island hopping in the Caribbean and will clock up three UK tropical islands in a week as the Atlantic Patrol continues – the LANCASTER has already stopped in the Cayman Islands and is now moving on to Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands to show local authorities the help the warship can offer should a hurricane strike.   Having already visited Bermuda the LANCASTER has just the UK territories of Anguilla and Montserrat left to visit of the six in the region.
Simulated Carrier Battle Group Training – the arrival of the Aircraft Carrier QUEEN ELIZABETH in service is not far that away in the scale of things, though the aircraft have yet to be ordered!   Already Royal Navy air crew and operation rooms teams across linked by simulators are testing how the Fleet of tomorrow would work together in battle.

For example four (4) F-35B LIGHTNING II Joint Strike Fighters fended off an air attack against the Carrier Battle Group as a Type 45 Destroyer and ‘eye in the sky’ SEA KING ASaC7 form an aerial shield around the Flagship.     For the first time aircrew, operations room teams, scientists and technicians have tested how the technology will work together on the battlefield.    Fleet Air Arm, RAF and US Navy pilots ‘flew’ F-35B LIGHTNING II from simulators at BAE Samlesbury (Lancashire), while two SEA KING ASaC7 (‘bagger’) aircrew in Culdrose simulated the mission.   On the Isle of Wight, air warfare officers from the Type 45 Destroyer DUNCAN were at the controls of the “Queen Elizabeth carrier lab”, while on Portsdown Hill (Portsmouth) their counterparts, and fighter controllers, from another Type 45 DAUNTLESS were doing the same in the “Type 45 lab”.

The idea was to see whether the reams of data and information the SEA KING, Type 45, Aircraft Carrier and the four F-35B LIGHTNING II fighters could be passed from helicopter to fighter to ship in real time so decisions could be made and threats eliminated – exactly as would be expected were the QUEEN ELIZABETH Battle Group were on frontline operations.

BLYTH Spirit - the Sandown Class Minecountermeasure BLYTH made a recent visit the Northern French port of Rouen making the six and a half hour transit up the River Seine to the historic capital of Normandy.    A staggering 25,000 people came onboard when the ship opened to visitors – the BLYTH was there to take part in a five yearly gathering of vessels from around the world known as the “Rouen de Armada”, a ten day event, which attracted over 50 tall ships, as well as modern warships.

But before arriving at Rouen the BLYTH performed a more sombre duty, stopping off Port en Bessin where a shore party from the vessel attended the commemorations of 47 Commando’s D-Day assault - on the 7th June 1944, 47 Commando successfully took on the vital mission of securing the town which linked the American and British beach heads.
Operation Baltic Horizon - saw an expedition by the Fast Patrol Boats EXPRESS and EXPLORER to the annual Kiel Week regatta in Germany to represent the Royal Navy.    Both ships are involved in Operation Baltic Horizon - their annual summer deployment to the Baltic and Northern Europe.    The EXPLORER was under the command and crewed by the crew of the EXPLOIT and thus the Royal University Units of Birmingham and Wales were represented.
Exercise Listening Eagle 13 - Thirty five Royal Marines from Y Squadron (Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence) 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group, based at Stonehouse (Plymouth) deployed for most of June (2013) to Fort AP Hill, (Virginia, USA), to take part in Exercise Listening Eagle with Radio Reconnaissance Teams from 2nd Radio Battalion US Marine Corps.     The exercise tested their intelligence gathering, technical reconnaissance and electronic surveys as some of the biggest challenges were faced in the tactical communications to ensure that US and UK teams could share vital intelligence over different radios – but exercises of this nature help iron out these problems.    Fort AP Hill also provided an incredibly challenging training environment which saw the reconnaissance teams operating in 95% humidity in jungle like conditions.    Y Squadron is already planning to reciprocate the training experience next year (2014), potentially expanding the scope and ambition of the exercise.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Torbay Visitor - The Hunt Class Mine Countermeasures Vessel BROCKLESBY will visit Torbay for a weekend visit as part of a three -day regional engagement programme, and in particular, to support the town’s Armed Forces Day events.    BROCKLESBY recently took part in the first Exercise Joint Warrior of 2013, in company with sistership HURWORTH.

Albanian LEDBURY – the Hunt Class Minecountermeasure Vessel LEDBURY serving as part of the standing NATO Mine Counter Measure Group 2 has completed a visit to the Albanian Port of Vlore in the company of her NATO counterparts.    The NATO Task Group contributes to maritime security as part of Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea, in addition to practicing its core role of defeating mines.
DRAGON Double – the Type 45 Destroyer DRAGON, currently on duty “East of Suez” has a “Ship’s Flight” from 815 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm  of two (2) LYNX HMA.8 Helicopters – this is the first time two LYNX helicopters have joined a Type 45 Destroyer on front line operations.   The second LYNX came from the Type 23 Frigate MONMOUTH when the DRAGON relieved the Frigate, the DRAGON having arrived with a spare air and ground crew embarked as the MONMOUTH’s helicopter needed maintenance after six months on deployment, work typically carried out back at RNAS Yeovilton (Somerset).    With two LYNX embarked has provided flexibility as for example whilst one is carrying out the ‘day job’ of surface searches and support to board and search operations, the second helicopter carried out training with the Royal Marines Sniper Team, rapid roping, passenger transfers and picking up mail.

ScanEagle Reconnaissance Aircraft – the Fleet Air Arm is to get its own “Eagle Eyes” in a £ 30m deal for unmanned aircraft – the Boeing pilotless plane has been used by the US Navy over the past decade and has been trialled by the Royal Navy.   The small, unarmed ScanEagle “robot” plane, which can be launched from the flight decks of Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, can operate day or night.

The ScanEagle was trialled aboard the Type 23 Frigate SUTHERLAND in 2006 and the primary role is to gather intelligence and it was by the Americans while working alongside the Royal Navy on recent mine warfare exercises in the Gulf.

Manufactured by Boeing’s subsidiary Insitu the ScanEagle is a small drone – an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) – has a wingspan of just over three metres (10ft) and weighs 22kg (48lbs) and is launched from a pneumatic catapult.     Flying at about 60 knots, it is piloted by a specialist team on board the ship who will plan the ScanEagle’s missions, control its flights and monitor and analyse the information it gathers using its state of the art sensors, including a video or infra red camera, beaming back ‘real-time’ high resolution images via a satellite link.     It can stay airborne around for 15 to 18 hours at distances upwards of 70 miles from the ship.    Once its flight is over it returns to the “mother ship” where it’s caught by dangling a rope vertically, which catches in a hook at either end of each wing.     The aircraft is grappled by a recovery device and lifted back on board.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

LANCASTER Moving On – The Type 23 Frigate LANCASTER has, after a visit to Bermuda made a successful visit to Key West (Florida), is now heading for the Cayman Islands as the part of a six month deployment.     LANCASTER, affectionately nicknamed 'The Queen’s Frigate' [after the ship’s Sponsor, Her Majesty The Queen], is set to will visit all six of the British Overseas Territories in the region as well as numerous Commonwealth and Caribbean countries during the present deployment.

US Navy Submarine Service “Dolphins - A Royal Navy Submariner recently received US Navy Submarine Service “dolphins”, making him just the second UK officer to qualify on a US Navy submarine.    Lieutenant Matt Main, already holding his Royal Navy dolphins – the unique badge which signifies a qualified submariner – has now been presented with the US equivalent after a gruelling 27 month training and qualification process.    The ceremony took place alongside HM Naval Base Clyde, where the Fleet Submarine USS NEW MEXICO was visiting.   A Marine Engineer (Submarines) in the Royal Navy, Lieutenant Matt Main is currently the Damage Control Assistant on the Fleet Submarine USS NEW MEXICO and will become the Assistant Engineer in due course before returning to the Royal Navy.   [US Navy submarine officers must qualify both forward and aft to earn their dolphins, learning to drive the submarine both surfaced and submerged].   The first Royal Navy officer to earn US Navy submarine dolphins, was Lieutenant Commander Ralph Coffey, serving of the Fleet Submarine USS PROVIDENCE in 2010.

First Royal Navy Sailor Qualifies to move Aircraft – the first British Royal Navy. Chief Petty Officer (Stacy Gager) has qualified as an Aircraft Director on a US Aircraft Carrier USS EISENHOWER after being put through an intense training programme, an is now trained to coordinate a continual stream of aircraft moving around the carrier as they prepare to fly or come into land on the deck.    A further three sailors are undergoing training onboard the Wasp Class Amphibious Assault Ship USS KEARSARGE, where they work with HARRIERs (well the US Marine Corps’ AV-8B variant) whilst of the USS EISENHOWER they are dealing with SUPER HORNET, HAWKEYE early-warning aircraft, PROWLER electronic warfare aircraft as well as GREYHOUND twin-prop transports and well as SEAHAWK helicopters.   The idea of course being that the Royal Navy sailors to regain specialist operational aircraft handling skills before being deployed to the QUEEN ELIZABETH Class Aircraft Carriers which are under construction.    Some (around) 300 personnel are expected to be trained by the end of the decade, including RAF personnel.
Second Island Ready – The final 753 tonne completed section, (Upper Block 14), the Second (aft) Island, for the Aircraft Carrier QUEEN ELIZABETH has begun its journey from the Clyde to join the rest of the new carrier being assembled at Rosyth.    The aft island will control flight deck operations.     The section set sail from the Clyde having been loaded onto on a sea going barge for the voyage around the north of Scotland.   Still to be added to the QUEEN ELIZABETH is the “ski ramp, to allow the launch of the aircraft, and a few final sponsons to finish the flight deck.

Royal BANGOR – the Sandown Class Minecountermeasure Vessel BANGOR, based at Faslane and part of  the 1st Minecountermeasure Squadron has a Royal Visitor in the form of HRH Prince of Wales, known in Scotland as the Duke of Rothesay.   The Prince was briefed about the present day efforts of the Royal Navy’s mine warfare forces to keep the sea lanes during his visit to Faslane and the BANGOR and was shown the “battle proven” SEAFOX system, which the MoD describe as a “state of the art fire and forget system, capable of destroying mines in depths of up to 300 metres".     During his visit the Prince met Divers, Royal Marines, Submariners and Naval Base Staff, plus local schoolchildren.

It will be recalled that HRH Prince of Wales served in the Royal Navy for five years in the 1970s, and in the final ten (10) months of his Naval career was in Command of the Coastal Minesweeper BRONNINGTON.
Clyde Goes Hollywood in the Falklands – The Patrol Ship, and Falkland Guardship CLYDE has marked in spot in some style by making a permanent mark on the Falklands.    The ship’s name is now writ large in the Falklands using giant boulders overlooking the capital Stanley.     The Patrol Ship becomes the sixth Royal Navy vessel to be honoured with the gigantic ‘inscription’ on the Camber, directly opposite the heart of Stanley – names which celebrate vessels with long or important associations with the remote British territory.     Each letter is ten metres high (32ft) by five metres (16ft) wide, made from roughly four tonnes of rock and laid on top of the scrub and bog that make up the Camber.    The six ships so commemorated are :-
·         HMS BARRACOUTA – a 19th Century cruiser which patrolled the islands, mainly to keep fishermen in check.
·         HMS BEAGLE - Charles Darwin’s survey ship Beagle stopped here during the ship’s round the world voyage in the 1830s
·         HMS PROTECTOR – the honours the previous Antarctic Survey Ship, not the current vessel, which carried out research in the ’50s and ’60s;
·         HMS ENDURANCE honours both vessels which called in on the islands for nearly 40 years
·         HMS DUMBARTON CASTLE, whose boulders were put in place in 2007 after 25 years of taking it in turns to patrol the region with her sister HMS LEEDS CASTLE.
The names are so large that they are visible on Google Earth (51˚40’57”S, 57˚51’39”W – although the satellite imagery’s not been updated yet to include the CLYDE moniker).
1812 Remembered - British, American and Canadian sailors have paid homage to men killed in one of the most famous – and bloodiest – battles waged the last time London and Washington went to war against each other.   On the 1st June 1813, the Frigate SHANNON and the American Frigate USS CHESAPEAKE clashed off Boston (Massachusetts) in a short and bloody encounter.    Bostonians were convinced of success, but Captain Philip Bowes Vere Brooks RN, in command of the SHANNON delivered a lesson in naval gunnery and training - for every shot fired by the USS CHESAPEAKE into SHANNON, the British Frigate responded with two into the American warship.     

In all, 228 men were killed or wounded in the brief battle, making it the bloodiest single ship encounter of the entire war and after just 15 minutes of battle the USS CHESAPEAKE struck the ship’s battle flag which was lowered and the Blue Ensign of the Royal Navy hoisted by the SHANNON’s Boarding Team, even though the mortally wounded Commander of the American warship urged his men: “Don’t give up the ship” – a motto which lives on in today’s American Navy.      Both ships subsequently made for Halifax (Canada) some 300 miles away, where the casualties of battle were treated and the dead laid to rest in what is now known as the Old Burial Ground.     In all 38 sailors, marines, landsmen and immigrants lost their lives on the SHANNON, whilst on the American warship some 60 American sailors and marines were killed.    Two hundred years later the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, (Brigadier-General John Grant) unveiled a commemorative plaque and laid a wreath on the joint grave of the SHANNON’s Midshipman John Samwell and Boatswain William Steven.    Representing the Royal Navy at the memorial proceedings was Lieutenant-Commander Mike Jones-Thompson, an Air Warfare Officer who is one of five on exchange with the Canadians in Halifax.

Whitehaven Pursuit – The Fast Patrol Boats ARCHER and PURSUER are due to visit the Cumbrian Whitehaven Festival.    Both ships were be open to the public over the weekend, though not at the same time – they will alternate, meaning one will open to the public while the other conducts pre-arranged tours for organised groups, and then they will swap over.  In addition the ARCHER will also be supporting a science and technology event for local school children whilst alongside in Whitehaven.    Both are Universities Royal Naval Unit ships with the ARCHER current based at the Edinburgh unit (based at Leith) whilst the PURSUER serving at the unit for Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities.  

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Royal Marines Go Into Jordan – Some 350 Royal Marines are to be deployed to Jordan in the next few days.   The Marines are to come from 42 Commando RM (Plymouth) and from the RM Command and Control Group from the UK’s Amphibious Task Group (Portsmouth).    The lead British contingent is Lima Company, 42 Commando RM, which has deployed with full nuclear biological warfare equipment in case of any chemical attack on Jordan.

Exercise Eager Lion, the twelve (12) day will take place in the Jordanian desert and include field firing and rehearsing scenarios including air defence and humanitarian assistance.     More than 5,000 US Marines are in Jordan (from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Force), having landed by USN Assault Ships and troops from Britain, Bahrain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen will take part in the war games.

Coalition Special Forces” from the USA, Poland and the UK are also working with Jordanian Special Forces, [who are trained by the SAS], with elements of the RM Special Boat Service heading a hostage rescue exercise.   The RM Command and Control Group from Portsmouth includes Naval and Army staff and is headed by a (Army) Brigadier and a two star General, who usually deploy to co-ordinate and command amphibious landings.

Following the news a Syria has used gas against its own people has prompted the sudden dash to Jordan where it emerged that 300 US Marines and a PATRIOT anti-aircraft missile system have been deployed to northern Jordan having landed from three US Navy warships which have docked in Aqaba, the only deep water port in Jordan.

In August 2013, the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS is scheduled to sail on a major deployment, codenamed Exercise Cougar 13, with 650 Marines embarked for more “war games” in Sardinia and Turkey before landing in Jordan.     The ILLUSTRIOUS will dock off Aqaba with the ship’s escorts undertaking planned exchange training with Jordanian forces before sailing further on the Gulf.   No doubt the ILLUSTRIOUS with the necessary escorts could sail within days if required.

It will be recalled that in July 1917, T.E. Lawrence arranged a joint action with the Arab irregulars attacked the strategically located but lightly defended (by the Turks) town of Aqaba, making a surprise overland attack, Aqaba fell to Lawrence and the Arab forces.   Aquaba is in a water salient off the Red Sea.   After Aqaba, Lawrence was promoted to Major, and Allenby the new Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force agreed to a new strategy for what was the start the (first) Arab Spring.   As they say the rest is history.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

SULTAN Say Good Bye to the Olympus – with the impending demise of the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, due to pay off next year (2014) the need to train marine engineers on this type of main engine has run its course.   The Olympus gas turbine has powered Destroyers, Frigates, as well as the (old) Carriers, and came to prominence as the engine for the VULCAN bomber and of course CONCORDE.   Described as the greatest British engine of its generation the Instructors at the Royal Navy’s Engineering School after 35 years of training marine engineers at HMS SULTAN (Gosport), as the ILLUSTRIOUS is the last vessel to be powered by the Olympus.

The Bristol Aero Engine company ran the first Olympus in 1950, and by the 1960s the Royal Navy was looking to adapt the by now highly successful engine in their ships as they began to shift from steam.  The Royal Navy successfully experimented with the Type 14 Frigate EXMOUTH and pioneered the COGOG concept in 1966, when the Frigate was refitted with a combined gas or gas arrangement.    The success of the Type 21, Type 22 Frigates in service plus the Type 42 Destroyers illustrates the success.   The Olympus also powered the INVINCIBLE Class of Aircraft Carriers with four (4) Olympus engines driving two shafts, allowing speeds of up to 28 knots to be achieved.

To replace the Olympus of course HMS SULTAN is gearing up to train the next generation gas turbine, the MT30, which will drive Aircraft Carriers QUEEN ELIZABETH and PRINCE OF WALES – the MT30 are one and a half times more powerful than the Olympus,

Stamped CLYDE – the Patrol Ship CLYDE, the Falkland Guardship, is featured in a series of new stamps which celebrate the natural beauty of one of Britain’s most isolated territories. The ship was photographed at King Edward Point in the wildlife haven of South Georgia.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

PENZANCE Half Lift Refit Completed – the Sandown Class Minecountermeasure Vessel PENZANCE has completed a six month ha;f life refit at Rosyth (Babcock), and now has enhanced operational capability, sustainability and habitability standards.       Upgrades have included installation of a replacement fire detection system; the high pressure air system (extending system life, and offering cost and space benefits; Defence Information Infrastructure installation to provide a coherent infrastructure enabling information sharing and collaborative working across the defence sector network; installation of the Response to Attack on Ammunition arrangements; Chloropac installation (to combat marine growth in sea inlets); ballast re-siting to compensate for weight changes as a result of other work carried out; and a galley upgrade package, among other things.   The PENZANCE will now proceed on sea trials before returning to the Fleet.

Scilly SOMERSET – the Type 23 Frigate SOMERSET spent a weekend at the Isles of Scilly to support the islands’ 70th Anniversary Commemorations of the Battle of the Atlantic and to reaffirm relations.   Whilst anchored in St Mary’s Roads the ship welcomed many islanders and tourists on board over the weekend.   Seaboat and boarding team displays were provided and a traditional Naval sunset ceremony were part of the celebrations.
WILDCAT At Sea – the next generation small helicopter for the Fleet Air Arm, the WILDCAT HMA.2 is undertaking the latest series of trials by practising landing aboard Landing Ship RFA MOUNTS BAY. 700W Naval Air Squadron – the Squadron formed especially to bring the new helicopter into service reports that the WILDCAT performed beyond expectations, building on the noteworthy lineage of the LYNX which has been operating from the flight decks of Royal Navy warships for over 30 years.   Aircrew have been flying by day and night – latter courtesy of night vision kit – on to and off the deck of the RFA MOUNTS BAY as they take another important step down the road to introducing the helicopter into front line service.    The WILDCAT has already carried out trials at sea on the Aviation Traing Ship RFA ARGUS (its first deck landing) and the Type 23 Frigate IRON DUKE (first time on a frigate).

SEA KING ASaC.7 Serving with the French - two (2) Airborne Surveillance and Control SEA KING ASaC.7 of 849 Squadron (Fleet Air Arm) have spent a week onboard the French Aircraft Carrier CHARLES DE GAULE for air defence exercises off the Brittany coast.   The two ‘baggers’ joined the Air Group of the French Carrier together with Swiss F/A-18 HORNETs for a week long air defence exercise in and off Brittany.    The SEA KINGs notched up more than 40 hours flying, completing 16 missions on thr French Carrier.

Pre Cougar 13 Preparation – the Helicopter Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS is about to complete four weeks of total war training in the Western Approaches prior to the Cougar 13 Deployment in the Mediterranean and Gulf in the Autumn (August 2013).  Under the direction of Flag Officer Sea Training the veteran carrier will be at the heart of the annual workout for the UK’s  Response Force Task Group.     Meanwhile the Fleet Flagship the Assault Ship BULWARK held a families day at sea as part of a break from a busy training and exercise programme since the start of the year.   The BULWARK now begins a short maintenance period, in preparation for leading the Cougar 13 Deployment later this year.

Monday, 10 June 2013

DARING’s  Deployment – the Type 45 Destroyer DARING is off on a nine month deployment to the Far East and beyond, and contribute to maritime security in the Asia Pacific, and conduct science and technology trials in the Pacific.    Apart from representing the UK in Exercise Bersama Lima, (part of an annual programme of exercises in the region involving Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore); the ship will also take part in celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Navy.
DRAGON at Work – the Type 45 Destroyer DRAGON, on a maiden deployment “East of Suez” has been featured carrying out what must be a regular routine, helping the shepherd a gigantic gas tanker through one of the world’s most important ‘choke points’ through the narrows between the Arabian Sea and Gulf during an exercise to hone protecting sea trade.   Qatar of course in the source of much of Britain’s natural gas supply and this will be the case for many many years ahead.   The DRAGON linked up with a cluster of British and American vessels for the exercise

Qatar is home to the third largest reserves of natural gas in the world – its has one seventh of the globe’s known resources and the UK consumes over 90 billion cubic metres of natural gas every year – roughly half of it coming by sea, with a quarter of it imported through the terminal in Milford Haven.

DUNCAN Takes A Bow – the Type 45 Destroyer DUNCAN, the sixth and last of the Class, which made a first entry to Portsmouth in March 2013 when she was handed to the Royal Navy by the builders who have prepared the ship for rigorous trials over the coming months.    The DUNCAN has now sailed from Portsmouth to commence these trials and all being well will commission in September (2013).

End of the Line for the Type 42 – the decommissioning the Type 42 Destroyer EDINBURGH this month brings to an end four decades of modern naval history.   The 28 year old EDINBURGH was the last of the last of the fourteen (14) ships in the class in service.   The Type 42s came to public consciousness during the Falklands with the loss of twenty (20) when the SHEFFIELD was hit by an Exocet missile,  and  three weeks later sister ship COVENTRY was bombed and sunk with the loss of twenty one (21) during a day of battle with the Argentine Air Force.   Later the GLOUCESTER intercepted an Iraqi missile bound for a US battleship in the Gulf, whilst LIVERPOOL more recently repeatedly (and accurately) pounded pro-Government forces in Libya in 2011.
Atlantic Patrol Taskforce (North) - the Type 23 Frigate LANCASTER visiting Bermuda (Caribbean) joined the Fleet Tanker RFA WAVE KNIGHT in the British Overseas Territory.     The RFA WAVE KNIGHT has been on operations in this region since the beginning of the year, whilst the LANCASTER is a new arrival, and during the six month deployment will visit all six of the British Overseas Territories in the region as well as numerous Commonwealth and Caribbean countries

St. Helena Remembrance – the Support Tanker RFA BLACK ROVER, en route to the South Atlantic duty paid tribute the 41 crew of the tanker RFA DARKDALE killed when the ship was torpedoed by a U-boat.   During the ship’s brief visit the crew smartened the war memorial on Jamestown, St Helena.    It is impossible for the RFA BLACK ROVER to dock on the island, so the party of volunteers was put ashore on St Helena by sea boat.

The RFA DARKDALE arrived off St Helena in the summer of 1941, and was to provide fuel for passing Royal Navy warships such as Aircraft Carrier EAGLE and the Cruiser DORSETSHIRE.   On the night of the 21-22nd October 1941 when at anchor off Jamestown the German U-68 found the ship and sank the tanker with torpedoes, the blast caused the RFA DARKDALE to turn over and sink in minutes, two men survived the explosion – blown off the upper deck and clear of the wreck.    The striken ship was torn in two, with sections protruding ominously from the Atlantic.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Membrane Bio-Reactor – Sewage Disposal To You and Me – the Helicopter Carrier OCEAN, currently a fair way into a 15 month overhaul programme at Babcock’s Devonport Royal Dockyard, has seen work completed on schedule in preparation for the installation (by Babcock) of a first of class Membrane Bio-Reactor, a significant proportion of the vessel’s current upgrade package.   The new Membrane Bio-Reactor replaces the ship’s existing sewage treatment system and will be capable of processing both waste water and sewage (black and grey water, galley, laundry, sink and shower waste).    This will mean that OCEAN will be in full compliance with current and future planned IMO and MARPOL regulations due to come into force in 2015, enabling the ship to operate globally.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Arctic Russians - The Coast Guard Division of Russia’s Federal Security Service will deploy four new Warships to protect the nation’s Arctic Zone by 2020 - eleven border protection facilities are to be built in the Arctic, while automated surveillance systems are to be deployed in the area as part of the Russian Federation State Border Protection program for 2012-2020.   Russia has officially set a goal of deploying a combined arms force by 2020 to protect its political and economic interests in the Arctic, including military, border, and Coast Guard units.   The Arctic “race” is on – so what will Canada, the USA and Denmark do ? – will there be a NATO solution ?    We should watch this space!!!!

ECHO Deploys Again for 18 Months – to replace the Survey Ship ENTERPRISE sister ship ECHO has deployed for a second 18 month deployment in three years and will operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.
TERRIER – New Commando Battlefield Digger – as the Royal Marines return to amphibious operations after a dozen years when deployments in the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan have been a distraction from their primary focus things are on the move.    The latest piece of kit for the Royal Marines is the 30 tonne, 50 mph TERRIER armoured digger, capable of clearing minefields, laying temporary roads, smashing road surfaces, tearing up concrete and lifting heavy objects.    The TERRIER is fitted with thermal imaging technology and can be controlled remotely from distances up to a kilometre away and has five cameras which allows dangerous tasks such as mine clearance to be conducted remotely.    This versatile vehicle is able to transport up to 5,000 kg of material and the quick hitch mechanism means the bucket at the front can be rapidly dropped and replaced with either a set of forks (making it rather like a fork lift truck, a ripper for tearing up road surfaces or a device for clearing mines from road surfaces.     Different fittings for its side excavator arm can be used to dig holes, lift objects, drill into the ground or shatter concrete.     The TERRIOR is armed with a 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Gun and smoke grenade launchers, and is air transportable by the (RAF aircraft) C-17 GLOBEMASTER, or the Airbus A400M when in service, but in Royal Marine service the Landing Craft Utility will be the usual means of getting them ashore.

24 Commando Regiment RE, based at Chivenor (Barnstaple) is an integral part of 3 Commando Brigade RM and now comprises:-
·           54 Commando Headquarters and Support Squadron, RE
·           56 Commando Field Squadron, RE (not yet established)
·           59 Commando Field Squadron, RE – the former 59 Independent Commando Squadron RM
                   Reconnaissance Troop
                   Field Troop
                   Field Troop
                   Field Troop
·         131 Independent Commando Squadron, RE (Volunteers)
                    Headquarters and Support Troop (Kingsbury, London NW)
                    300 Troop (Plymouth)
                    301 Troop (Sheldon, Birmingham)
                    302 Troop (Bath)
·         REME Workshops (Attached)
with an establishment of 543 Officers and Soldiers.

Some sixty (60) TERRIER vehicles have/are been acquired by the Royal Engineers – and will be issued to their field units including 24 Commando Regiment, RE.