Category Archives: Dockyard

BAE Systems may close one of British shipyards

Type 45 Destroyer at BAE System Shipyard (Govan)

Type 45 Destroyer at BAE System Shipyard (Govan) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of BAE Systems British shipyards may close, the firms Chief Executive told the Sunday Telegraph.

BAE systems own three shipbuilding facilities in Britain – at Govan at Scotstoun in Scotland, and in Portsmouth. After the two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers have been completed there is a noticeable gap in orders from the MOD, with the next programme likely to be the Type 26 Frigates due to begin a couple of years later. This gap means that it would be unprofitable to keep one of the yards running while there is no work, hence the likelihood of a closure.

Notably, BAE has performed poorly in the export market in recent years, only managing to receive orders from smaller countries for patrol vessels. Ships such as the Type 45 have not sold on the international market. By contrast countries such as France, Spain and Germany have extremely succesful export records. If only BAE had managed to sell even a few destroyers or frigates in the intervening years, British jobs might not be at risk.

Portsmouth is believed to be the most vulnerable, with 1,500 jobs at risk. There is a notion outside of Portsmouth that as it is in the South East, it can look after itself. As a result Portsmouth has always fared badly when it has come to defence cuts, compared to areas such as Plymouth and Scotland, which not only have relatively few other opportunities for employment, but have also managed to deploy much stronger political arguments. The previous Labour government went to great lengths to protect scottish shipbuilding, due to the close poximity of the scottish shipyards to the constituencies of several high-profile Labour MP’s. Yet, with Alec Salmond’s hot air regarding independence, not to mention the SNP’s anti-military stance, would it not be sensible for BAE – a BRITISH, ie, London company – to secure itself in England?

It’s cruelly unfair that Portsmouth always gets the thin end of the wedge when it comes to cuts. In the post-war period Portsmouth did much to diversify and reduce its reliance on the Royal Navy and the Dockyard, developing new industries, such as heritage, tourism, technology and services. Plymouth, on the other hand, did very little. As a result Plymouth is still reliant on the Navy, and has long been protected from cuts.

Rather worrying times for anyone working for BAE in Portsmouth.

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Remember the Falklands @ Portsmouth Dockyard

Myself and the HSO (History Support Officer) have just got back from the ‘Remember the Falklands‘ event at the Dockyard in Pompey today. HMS Dragon and HMS York were open to visitors, providing a contrast between the 1982 vintage of Royal Navy ship, and the modern escort fleet.

HMS Dragon

HMS Dragon

HMS Dragon

Dragon is the newest of the Type 45 Destroyers to join the fleet, having only arrived in Portsmouth a matter of months previously. As I have previously commented after visiting Daring and Dauntless, the space on these ships is incredible compared to their earlier counterparts. It’s such a privilege to look round such a clean, tidy new-smelling ship. You know when you buy a new car, and for a few months it has that new smell? Well, Dragon still has that.

OK, who let a ginger in the ops room?

The ops room in particular is incredible, the sheer amount of desks and monitors is a sight to behold. You get the impression that the skill in commanding a modern warship is how the officers – and warrants and CPO’s for that matter – learn to control and process what goes in and out of that inner sanctum. One thing that occurs to me… I’ve been on three Type 45 Destroyers now, and never been allowed onto the bridge – what is on the bridge of a T45 that we aren’t allowed to see?

HMS York

HMS York

HMS York

HMS York is a batch 3 Type 42 Destroyer, one of the ships that was hastily redesigned after the lessons of the Falklands were digested. Longer than her earlier counterparts, she has a more pronounced bow for improved seakeeping, and distinctive strengthening beams down the side. I believe that she’s up for decomissioning in the next year or so. The difference between her and Dragon is striking – so much less room, so much more cramped, and overall looking very tired. The funny thing is, that we were allowed to see a lot more on York – including the 1970’s looking Ops Room (half the size of Dragon’s), the bridge, and also ratings and officers quarters. The crew were also remarkably informative and chatty. It’s always a phenomenon looking round warships – some ratings look bored out of their minds, whilst others seem to love spinning a yarn.

Sea Dart - never to be fired again?

Sea Dart – never to be fired again?

Other Sights

As per usual at these kind of events the band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines played.

I also managed to get some good pictures of the new Up Harbour Ammunitioning Facility currently being constructed. The New UHAF is much closer to the Dockyard than before, not too far off the corner of Middle Slip and North Corner Jetties.

the new UHAF

the new UHAF

My conclusions about the day? I can’t stress enough how important these days are. The Royal Navy is notoriously bad at blowing its own trumpet and doing the PR thing. Everyone knows about the Eurofighter Typhoon thanks to the RAF’s PR department, but how many people are as aware of Type 45 Destroyers? The Royal Navy, if it want’s to be at the forefront of defence, needs to win hearts and minds at home as much as battles at sea.

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Filed under Dockyard, event, Falklands War, Navy, out and about, Royal Marines

Falklands Anniversary events in Portsmouth

  

  

  

  

  

  

HMS York-Portsmouth-02

HMS York (Image via Wikipedia)

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard will host a special ‘mini-Navy Days‘ over the weekend of 5 and 6 May to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War.

HMS Dragon, the fourth brand-new Type 45 Destroyer, and HMS York a Batch 3 Type 42 Destroyer will both be open to visitors from 10am until 3.30pm. Living history group Forces 80 will be wearing naval and Argentinian uniforms and display kit and deactivated weapons from the war, and the Band of HM Royal Marines from HMS Collingwood in Fareham are due to perform in Victory Arena near HMS Victory at 11am and 3pm both days.

Click here for the Portsmouth News report about the event.

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Depressing Goings on in Portsmouth Naval Base

HMS Liverpool

HMS Liverpool - Image by Defence Images via Flickr

The Queens Harbour master‘s website is showing alot of goings on in Portsmouth Dockyard in the next few days.

Earlier today the Tug Vortex brought in the ex-HMS Chatham, one of the recently decomissioned Type 22 Batch 3 Frigates. Tomorrow the Tug Compass is taking out the ex-HMS Exeter, presumably to the scrapyard. Exeter, a Type 42 Destroyer, is a Falklands veteran and is probably being shifted off to make room for more new arrivals. And then on Sunday, another Tug is bringing in the ex-HMS Campbeltown, one of the sister ships of Chatham.

In the near future we can expect the other two Type 22’s to arrive – Cornwall and Cumberland – and more Type 42’s to leave for the scrapyard – Nottingham, Southampton, and Gloucester. Manchester and Liverpool won’t be far behind in the next year or two. You know it’s bad when they have to get rid of decomissioned ships to make room for yet more decomissioned ships.

In other news, apparently a group of enthusiasts in Liverpool are putting together a campaign to preserve HMS Liverpool in the city once she retires from service. As I have often said here, our record in this country for preserving modern warships is woeful. But I cannot help but think that acquiring the ship is the easy part, actually getting the money to keep her in a fit state to be a succesful visitor attraction is the difficult bit. Personally I would like to see something with some merit preserved – a Falklands veteran, for example. But it will be interesting to see how the Liverpool campaign goes.

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SPS Almirante don Juan de Bourbon

The Truxtun was followed by the Almirante Juan de Bourbon, an Alvaro de Bazan class frigate of the Spanish navy. Note how she looks like a sleeker, stealthier Burke – both were built on the same Aegis system, but the Bazans are newer.

20110527-051827.jpg

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HMS Invincible leaves Portsmouth for the last time

At 8am yesterday the former HMS Invincible left Portsmouth for the last time. She is being towed to a scrapyard in Turkey, where she will be dismantled and her steel recycled.

There was a sizeable crowd lining the harbour entrance in Pompey, with plenty of people on top of the Round Tower, along the Hot Walls and down onto Victoria Pier. I could also see people over on the Gosport side and naval ratings on Fort Blockhouse turned out too. When she passed the Round Tower the tugs all gave a blast on their horns, and the assembled crowd gave three cheers. I’m sure there was a lone piper somewhere too.

Invincible was eased out of the Harbour Entrance by four buff and black Serco Denholm tugs – formerly of the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service – to Spithead, where she was taken under tow by the Tug Sirocco. Evidently someone has a sense of humour, as ‘SOLD’ had been painted on the superstructure under the bridge in dark grey paint!

Last time I checked Invincible was heading at 8-9 knots down the English Channel, south of the Isle of Wight. By the wonders of AIS, we can follow the progress of the Sirocco/Invincible combination - click here for Sirocco’s profile on marinetraffic.com, and then click on  ‘current vessel’s track’.

All in all it was a sad but dignified exit for a grand old ship. She’s a Falklands veteran, lets remember. Several of the Harrier pilots flying from her in 1982 were killed. Let’s not forget that amidst the scramble to make a fuss over supposedly more glamorous ships.

Unfortunately due to technical issues I am unable to post any pictures, but hopefully they will be up sometime over the weekend.

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Ark Royal open day report

Ark Royal on Victory Jetty

Today’s Portsmouth News reports that over 11,000 people visited HMS Ark Royal over the weekend, taking a lost opportunity to visit the ship before she is decomissioned. I went with my Girlfriend and Dad. We had planned to visit some of the Historic Dockyard afterwards, but in the event only had time to go round the Mary Rose Museum – after a restorative Hot Chocolate of course!

The queue snaked all the way back from Victory Jetty right back through the Historic Dockyard, and at times almost reached the Gosport Ferry at the Hard. If anyone doesn’t know Portsmouth, that is a very long way. All in all we had to queue for over an hour just to get on, then queue round the ship just to get off again.

The famous ski-jump

There wasn’t even much to look at or see. A Merlin and a Gazelle on deck (what exactly a Gazelle has got to do with Ark lord only knows), and in the hangar we had the ubiquitous displays of firefighting equipment and suchlike, like on every ship at every Navy Days ever. It’s extremely boring standing round on a ship for hours on end, even more so in January.

The end of a famous ship deserved so much better. I guess the Ark is a victim of her own popularity, it wouldn’t have been so bad if 1) it had been in the summer, and 2) it had hadn’t been so crowded. If the RN had got its planning right it would have ensured that Ark Royal was at Navy Days in Portsmouth last year, ensuring a welcome publicity coup and a much more fitting chance to say goodbye.

Hopefully with her being decomissioned soon at least the Ark Royal brownie points bandwagon will cease. In more than one place I’ve seen an article about the Ark, accompanied by a picture of the OLD Ark Royal. Have people been getting a piece of the Ark circus while they can?  We’ll see when Illustrious retires from service in 2014 (or earlier if Dave and Boy George decide) and what kind of a send-off she gets. Invincible, a Falklands veteran, left service in 2005 with barely a whimper.

Hells Bells? :P

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Ark Royal to enter Portsmouth for the last time

HMS Ark Royal (R07)

HMS Ark Royal (Image via Wikipedia)

HMS Ark Royal is due to enter Portsmouth Harbour for the last time on Friday morning.

The Royal Navy’s flagship, due to be decommissioned as part of coalition budget cuts, will arrive in the Solent tomorrow morning, unusually entering via the Needles and sailing past Yarmouth, Lepe, Cowes, and Lee-on-Solent before anchoring up overnight for the usual assorted top brass, flunkies and hangers on to visit.

She’s due to pass the Round Tower at around 0940 on Friday morning. The best spots are likely to be along the hot walls in Old Portsmouth (the Round Tower will be packed), although Gosport will be a good spot due to the layout of the Aircraft Carriers deck, which means that the view from port is better as she enters harbour.

Weather permitting there will be a Harrier flypast, in what is likely to be one of the last public flights by the soon to be decommissioned jump jet.

It will be a sad sight indeed, after Portsmouth has become used to seeing brand new warships arriving, and throughout seeing flagships returning from war, almost always victorious. My parents were onboard a tug when HMS Hermes came back from the Falklands. How times change.

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Last Harrier takes off from Ark Royal

The last Harrier jump jets took off from HMS Ark Royal yesterday. Click here to watch video footage on the BBC website.

The four Harrier GR9’s effectively marked the end of naval aviation as we know it, by taking off from the soon to be decommissioned flagship in the North Sea. The last take off comes over 30 years since the first Sea Harrier landed on the deck of a Royal Navy warship, and 28 years since the Sea Harrier was at the forefront of the fight to retake the Falkland Islands.

Lt Cdr James Blackmore was the last Harrier pilot to take off from the iconic ski-jump:

“It is amazing. I watched a Harrier hovering over Chatham dockyard when I was eight years old and I am now fortunate enough to be flying the Harrier today… It’s an amazing aircraft, superb to fly and just very enjoyable.”

Captain Jerry Kyd said there was a tear in his eye when the last Harrier left. He showed extraordinary tact in the following statement:

“It was an emotional moment and also one of real pride as we look back over 25 years service to Queen and country… No naval officer wants to see any ship decommissioned early and she is a fine vessel and she has a fine history. She is at the peak of her efficiency but one understands that very difficult decisions have to be made across government.”

I wonder what Captain Kyd REALLY thinks?

Petty Officer Andrew Collins, 26, from Glasgow, described the situation in the usual directness of the British sailor:

“HMS Ark Royal is like the girlfriend you hate and you only realise you loved her when she has binned you.”

After a short visit to Hamburg in Germany, HMS Ark Royal is due to enter Portsmouth Harbour for the last time on Friday 3 December. Port movements are only announced 24 hours in advance, but looking at the high tides that day, I would predict that she will arrive sometime around 9am or shortly after. Expect a Harrier flypast and tugs spraying water cannons, as well as huge crowds thronging old Portsmouth.

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Youtube picks

Heres a few vidoes on youtube that I’ve been watching recently. Enjoy!

HMS Hermes returns from the Falklands

This is a pretty historic piece of footage. Not only does it show the Flagship of the Falklands Task Force returning to Portsmouth, my mum and dad were on one of the black and buff Navy tugs escorting her in! Presented by Michael Buerk and Brian Hanrahan, we see thousands of people gathered on the waterfront at Portsmouth, and there are interviews with Margaret Thatcher, and the Captain Lin Middleton. There are interviews with the crews families at the quayside.

The Somme: From Defeat to Victory

A pretty good documentary about the Battle of the Somme that I’ve just found. It’s refreshingly non ‘Janet and John’ style, which makes a nice change!

Royal Navy Sea Wolf Missile firing

I’ve been having a look at clips of missile firings on youtube, because it occured to me that I write about them a lot, but have never really seen what they look like in evidence! Heres a clip of a Sea Wolf missile firing from a Type 22 Frigate.

Black Label Society – Parade of the Dead (Live)

From the new album, Order of the Black. Zakk Wylde is back to his best!

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Filed under Army, Dockyard, Music, Navy, videos, western front, World War One

Navy Days 2010 – the rest of the sights

7 Dock

There’s always plenty more to look at at Navy Days other than the Warships – OK, so they are the big draw, but you can find some pretty interesting stuff on the docksides too.

I had an interesting chat with a Gentleman at the Project Vernon stand. Project Vernon aims to erect a statue at Gunwharf Quays, commemorating the sites heritage as the Royal Navy’s centre for Minewarfare until its closure in 1996. I’ve been researching a minewarfare man, CPO Reg Ellingworth GC, so I think its a wonderful idea and a very good project – good luck to them!

One of the highlights of the day, for me, was getting to visit the Royal Navy Historical Branch. This is one of those quiet departments that you know exists, but get to actually visit once in a blue moon. Their library seemed to have the Mariners Mirror, the Navy List, and practically every other kind of naval and maritime journal. While I was there a number of visitors were getting some advice about their ancestors naval service. I had a very interesting in-depth discussion with one of the members of staff about naval service records – how difficult they are to read, what all the abbreviations mean, and how to interpret them. The conclusion? Somebody needs to write a book on it! And also, it would be great if resources like this could be more accesible.

Type 26 model

The BAe System stand was very interesting. In effect the only shipbuilding company of note in Britain nowadays, BAe are leading the work on the Type 45 Destroyers, the new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, the Astute Class submarines, and design work for the new Type 26 Frigates. As you might expect their stand was very flash indeed.

Another stand I found interesting was the HMS Intrepid stand. A small group dedicated to perserving her memory had on display some relics from the Falklands veteran landing ship. Apparently when it came to scrapping her the old girl put up quite a protest, and even her name plate would not come off without a fight!

RM

In terms of harbour and air displays, things were a bit thin on the ground. I did catch the Royal Marines anti-piracy boarding demonstration, which looked excellently conducted, and shows what they can do when they’re actually allowed to (reference the incident in the Indian Ocean last year when a Marine boarding party was not allowed to rescue a kidnapped British couple). The Royal Navy Lynx Helicopter display team the Black Cats put on a display, as did the Royal Navy’s historic flight Harvard, but I’ve seen both of them before several times now. While I was on one of the warships the Royal Artillery’s Black Knights parachute display team – why is it that every armed forces unit has its own parachute display team?

The arena events were ok, if not spectacular or unusual. The Royal Marines, Royal Navy volunteer and Rose and Thistle Pipe Bands are firm fixtures at these type of events. I’m a bit mystified as to what the Solent Dog team has to do with Navy Days – I could have understood if it was an MOD police dog display or something like that. The Royal Signals white helmets motorbike display team disappeared from the programme, even though they had been announced earlier in the year. I can’t say I was particularly excited about Bloodhound either – the supersonic car. Again, quite what its got to do with the Navy, who knows…

Re-enactment groups are always good to see, whatever you think about re-enactors, it brings history to life in a far more accesible way. I spotted the Fort Cumberland Guard, The Coldstream Guards, some gentleman doing Napoleonic Musket firing near HMS Victory, and a group rowing a Victory-era small boat in 1 Basin. There weren’t as many wandering entertainers as I’ve seen in previous years, however.

Aachen

While we’re talking about boats, I forgot to mention RCL Aachen, a British Army operated and crewed large Landing Craft. She’s run by the Royal Corps of Logistics, and based at Marchwood in Southampton Water. According to her crew she can operate with the Royal Navy’s amphibious forces, but spends much of her time operating as a kind of water-borne taxi for the army, taking small numbers of men and equipment from one place to another by water.

However, the biggest pleasant surprise was finding Jason Salkey, who played Rifleman Harris in the Sharpe TV series. This was really quite something, as Sharpe is probably the reason why I am into military history in the first place. Jason’s a very nice bloke, and happily talked about Bernard Cornwell’s books, Sean Bean, and how sad he is that after he was killed off in Sharpe’s Waterloo he cannot appear in any future programmes.

1 Basin

Something that not a lot of people appreciate, is that the Dockyard buildings themselves have an awful lot of history – all you need to do is take a look at one of the many books by Ray Riley or Brian Patterson – every dock, storehouse, boathouse, jetty or basin has its own history. If only those bricks could talk… And when Navy Days is on you get to look round parts that aren’t normally open to the public, and take pictures from different angles – especially of 1 Basin from the top of RFA Argus!

All in all, there could have been a more and better displays, in particular in the air and in the arena. I can’t believe that on its biggest showcase of the year the Navy – or indeed the other armed forces – could not put on more. Its either lack of resources, costcutting, or sheer lack of effort. Thankfully some of the rare gens – such as meeting Jason Salkey, the Historical Branch, finding out about Project Vernon, RFA Argus and talking to some of the sailors on the ships made up for things. But theres something wrong when the sideshows are more interesting than the ships…

Apparently the word is that there won’t be a Portsmouth Navy Days in 2012 as it clashes with the Olympics – what that’s got to do with it I’m really not quite sure… why not just move it to another part of the year? Sounds like cost-cutting to me, unless of course the Type 45 Destroyers are going to be part of the air defence cordon off the Thames Estuary… There is talk of an event being put on next year, but as usual it looks like Portsmouth will miss out.

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Navy Days 2010 – The Ships

I’ve just got back from Navy Days in Portsmouth Dockyard. Here’s my round-up of the ships that were on display:

RFA Argus

RFA Argus

RFA Argus is a Primary Casualty Receiving Ship, with secondary roles as an aviation training ship and a general transport. She was launched in 1981 as the civilian container ship MV Contender Bezant, and served in the Falklands War as an aircraft transport. After the 1982 conflict she was purchased by the MOD and fitted out as an aviation training ship. In the Gulf War of 1991 she served as a casualty receiving ship, and its in this role that she was given a major refit over the past few years. She now has a very impressive medical facility, crewed by over 200 medical staff. There are 3 operating theatres, a recovery wing and a full general ward. Apparently the patients receive one-to-one care, with a nurse for each person. The ward has exactly the same facilities you would expect in an NHS Hospital, but tailored very much with the need for treating freezing cold sailors in mind.

The medical staff do not routinely stay onboard the ship unless on a specific tasking. The ship is on very short notice to sail, and the medical staff will be picked up along the way. Apparently she was put on notice to go to Iceland during the volcano affair. She was also almost used as a casualty ferry during the first phase of the Afghanistan War in 2001, when it looked like she would be the only way of bringing casualties home.

Argus has a very impressive flight deck and hangar – ideal for receiving casualties and then sending them on home when well enough. The ships company of Argus also put on a very good display and were very informative.

RFA Argus flight deck

HMS Dauntless

HMS Dauntless

HMS Dauntless is the Royal Navy’s newest Type 45 air defence Destroyer. Navy Days 2010 is the first time she has been open to visitors, and not surprisingly there were lengthy queues to get onboard. The tour did not go up to the bridge, but did include a very interesting look in the Ops room. I enjoyed talking to the Principle Warfare Officer, about Sea Viper (Dauntless are due to test it in September) and how it can track 36 targets at once, and how the command system is light years ahead of what the Navy is used to. All of the command systems are based on Windows, meaning that any young sailors joining up wont take long to learn how to use it! The most impressive thing about the Type 45’s is the space – they are so much more roomy than older ships, so claustrophobia is not such an issue as on a Type 42.

Apparently, the Phalanx systems due to be fitted to the 45’s are brand new, and not ripped off of the old Type 42’s as reported in the media – the Phalanx’s from the 42’s are now guarding Kandahar airport! Apparently the 45’s are also built with the space for a surface weapon system such as Harpoon in mind – there is space on the superstructure, a space for the electronics in the Ops room, and even the crew is designed with it as a possibility.

Sadly it was difficult to linger on Dauntless, given the crowds. It would have been nice to see a bit more of the ship too. Her sister ship Daring was also on display, but I’ve already been on her, so I gave those queues a miss.

HMS Westminster and HMS Richmond

Richmond and Westminster

HMS Richmond and Westminster are two of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 Frigates. The Captain of HMS Westminster was on the bridge when I went round – why dont more Captains do it? – and was happily talking to visitors. Apparently there is a waiting list to join the Navy at the moment, and more than a few of his junior seamen have degrees.

The Type 23’s are not exactly the most interesting ships to look round, but it would still be nice to see more of the ship and to see some interesting demonstrations or displays.

HMS Cumberland

Cumberland

HMS Cumberland is a Batch 3 ship of the Type 22 Class Frigates, and as my friend recently said, is a ‘proper warship’, and looks like one too. She’s interesting to look round, helped by the fact that her Sea Wolf launchers are more visible than the Type 23’s vertical launch systems. We don’t often see 22’s here in Portsmouth, as they are based in Plymouth. Its a shame most of them were flogged off on the cheap in the 90’s…

HMS Cattistock

Cattistock

HMS Cattistock is a Hunt Class Mine Countermeasures Vessel. The Portsmouth Minesweeper Flotilla at present rotate, with ships spending several years in the Gulf, and the crews rotating on them every 6 months or so. The crew on Cattistock put on a first class display, talking about their role, how they deal with mines, and the Chief Petty Officer gave a very good talk about firefighting at sea. And apprently the Coxon likes a spot of fishing, and has a rod and line ready most of the time.

Just goes to show, the little ships can be the most interesting, and its not size that counts – if the crew put the effort in, everyone learns something. Only one thing, I counted 5 other Hunt Class ships in the Basin – why not open up another one to relieve the queues for Cattistock?

HMS Tyne

Tyne

HMS Tyne is an Offshore Fishery Patrol Vessel. She guards the UK’s territorial waters, and inspects the catches of fishing vessels, and generally makes sure they are playing by the rules. The young officer on the bridge gave a very interesting talk about how maneouvreable the ship is, and how tricky it is navigating around boats with miles of nets trailing behind them. Apparently the Tyne and her sister ships are also occasionally tasked to ward off snooping Russian warships in the North Sea…..

Thoughts

Obviously I’ve been quite vocal in my thoughts that Navy Days without a major surface ship – such as a Carrier of Landing Ship – is not really on. I still think the Navy has scored a big own goal by depriving its major annual profile-raising event of a star attraction. But I must confess what was on show was still worth seeing. RFA Argus in particular was very interesting. Another point I would stress, is that some ships made a lot more effort than others – after a while looking at the same SA80, GPMG and firefighting displays gets a bit repetitive. And crew members who are knowledgeable and good at engaging with the public really make these kind of events.

I’m puzzled as to why a Type 42 was not put on display – as far as I know there are several in the Dockyard at present. Perhaps the Navy wants to forget that they exist, in favour of the Type 45’s. The lack of any foreign warships is a mystery, its unknown for a Navy Days to take place with not a single visitor. One wonders whether we have offended everyone – have we not been sending any ships to their Navy Days? A foreign visitor would really have made a difference, as would an aircraft carrier or a landing ship.

Tomorrow – the other sights and attractions at Navy Days 2010

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HMS Cumberland added to Navy Days

The Type 22 Frigate HMS Cumberland has been confirmed to appear at the Navy Days event in Portsmouth at the end of the month. Cumberland is normally based in Plymouth, so it will be a rare opportunity to take a look round a Type 22 Frigate in Portsmouth. It also goes some way to bolstering what is a rather weak-looking line-up.

Despite this new announcement the line-up for Navy Days is still looking decidedly anaemic. HMS Ark Royal, HMS Ocean, HMS Albion, HMS Liverpool, HMS Sutherland, RFA Fort George and RFA Largs Bay are all off the east coast of the US for the AURIGA deployment and are obviously unavailable. HMS Invincible is rusting in 3 Basin and in no condition to be on display, and HMS Illustrious is in deep refit at Rosyth. HMS Bulwark is in refit in Plymouth. As Portsmouth is the home port of the Type 42 Destroyers at least one of those should be on display, but perhaps the Navy is keen to emphasise the future where Destroyers are concerned. The survey ship HMS Echo is currently undergoing operational sea training and might be available, or how about the other survey ship, HMS Scott? Navy Days might also be an ideal opportunity for the Royal Navy to show off the new Astute submarine – even if visitors could not go onboard, it would be a PR coup to even be able to see her tied up alongside, and with some suitable displays about her next door.

There have been noticeably few announcements about foreign warships too. Apart from the French fishery patrol ship FS Cormoran Navy Days is looking like a solely British affair. The last Navy Days in Portsmouth had French, Danish, Chilean and Japanese ships on display. Hopefully we’ll get some announcements in the next couple of weeks – there was talk at one stage of an Italian warship, which would be great if it turned out to be one of the Italian Navy’s new Destroyers, which are almost identical to the Type 45’s and would make for an interesting comparison.

The Royal Navy has never been good at PR, even its own senior officers have dubbed it the ‘silent service’. Its not difficult to work out that poor PR makes you vulnerable when it comes to cuts, as politicians, civil servants and the public at large will be poorly-informed about who you are and what you do. The RAF, on the other hand, has a strong heritage of promoting itself – it has always had to, right from its early days. You can be it will not be wasting a single opportunity to emphasise what it does in these critical days while the Strategic Defence Review is ongoing.

Officials will cite ‘operational commitments’ for the poor showing at Navy Days, but in the case of exercises such as AURIGA would it not have been possible to either move the dates of Navy Days or scale down our involvement so at least one major ship might have been available? Of course it must be nice for Admirals to go on flag-waving exercises and to practice the rarity of fixed-wing flying on a UK Aircraft Carrier, but with bad PR this might end up being a thing of the past entirely.

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USS Boise




USS Boise

Originally uploaded by dalyhistory2010

The USS Boise is an unusual visitor to Portsmouth Naval Base at the moment.

A US Navy Los Angeles Class Nuclear Attack Submarine, USS Boise has a displacement of 6,000 tons, and a crew of 129 men. She can fire Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and conventional torpedoes. She was commissioned in 1992, and saw action in the second Gulf War in 2003.She is normally based in Norfolk, Virginia.

The security around US vessels is always tight when they visit foreign ports, and especially so with nuclear submarines. There is a 100 metre exclusion zone around the vessel, maintained by MOD police boats. When the boat I was on passed the Boise the US sailors on the deck tracked us through their binoculars!

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New additions to Navy Days 2010

Several new additions have been made to the list of ships due to appear at Navy Days 2010, taking place in Portsmouth Dockyard from 30 July to 1 August.

HMS Gleaner is the smallest vessel in the Royal Navy, measuring just 14.8 metres and with a crew of five. Normally based at Devonport, he role is to survey the waters around the UK coastline.

FS Cormoran

FS Cormoran

The French Ship FS Cormoran is the first Foreign naval vessel to confirm her attendance. Normally based at Brest, the Fishery Patrol vessel has a crew of 19. She is a farely frequent visitor to Portsmouth Harbour on her Channel patrols.

So far the following ships are due to attend: The Type 45 Destroyers HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless, aviation training and casualty receiving ship RFA Argus, Type 23 Frigates HMS Richmond and HMS Westminster, minehunter HMS Cattistock, Fishery patrol vessel HMS Tyne, and now HMS Gleaner and FS Cormoran.

Regular attendees will be hoping that more ships are added, and soon. Whilst no aircraft carrier will be presen due to refits, operations and mothballing, the Navy really should try to get one of the landing ships Ocean, Bulwark or Albion to attend. A lot is being made of the two new Destroyers, but no matter how new and shiny they are, Destroyers are never going to be crowd-pullers. And this is especially important at a time when the Royal Navy is facing cuts and needs to work on its public profile.

Lets hope that some interesting foreign ships confirm to attend, otherwise its starting to look pretty feeble compared to Navy Days past.

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