Tag Archives: hms ocean

HMS Ocean – All I want for Christmas

This video has been doing the rounds in the UK and beyond this week. After being sent on what was planned to be a seven week deployment to exercise in the Med, HMS Ocean and her crew found themselves involved in the war against Colonel Gadaffi. The ship is due to return to Plymouth tomorrow after seven months away – a long time in modern naval deployments – just in time for christmas. Apparently even Mariah Carey herself has given her blessing via Twitter!

Typical British military rank and file humour from Jack Tar and Jenny Wren!

And while we’re on the subject of HMS Ocean, here’s something completely mental!

 

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Breaking – Royal Navy Task Group to Libya

Royal Marines Board Sea King Helicopter on HMS...

Image by Defence Images via Flickr

The Navy News website reports that the bulk of the Royal Navy Task Group that had been exercising off Cyprus has now sailed for operations off Libya.

The Landing Ship HMS Albion, Type 23 Frigate HMS Sutherland, Tanker RFA Wave Knight and support ship RFA Fort Rosalie have broken away from long-planned training exercises to join the international effort against Colonel Gadaffi‘s regime. The Helicopter Carrier HMS Ocean had sailed some days before, carrying Army Air Corps Apaches. Britain already has the Destroyer HMS Liverpool, Minesweeper HMS Brocklesby and the Submarine HMS Turbulent on station.

Albion will serve as the command ship, carring Commodore John Kingwell. She is also carrying Royal Marine Commandos. Sutherland will undertake very similar duties to Liverpool in blockading the Libyan coast, while the auxiliaries will be available to both British and international vessels. There has been no word as yet on the movements of the two other ships in the Task ForceĀ - the RFA Landing Ships Cardigan Bay and Mounts Bay.

We were told less than a year ago by ‘call me Dave’ that such a deployment would not be necesary for the next ten years. Thankfully we are operating with allies, as the Task Group has no air cover of its own, no any ability to project any. True, jets may be flying ‘epic’ missions (copyright RAF PR Department) from Britain and Italy, but even the French have sent their carrier close in. Shorter range, more economic, more time on station, more flexible.

In terms of getting involved in the land side of things, its hard to see how that could happen. The embarked military force consists of 40 Commando RM, along with ‘elements’ of 3 Commando Brigade Headquarters. These must be very small elements, as the HQ was in Afghanistan when the Task Force sailed some time ago. Apparently there are also a small number of Netherlands Marines onboard, along with other Brigade troops. A reinforced Commando Group with some support elements does not constitute much of a ground force. On the plus side, the force has just trained in amphibious landings.

The lack of ground forces is in some respects fortunate, as the Task Group has scant ability to land much more than that anyway. Ocean’s tailored air group is more aimed at attack aircraft than transporting men ashore. Albion’s sister Bulwark is currently working up, and could join the Task Group if need be. But apart from that, the Royal Navy is creaking – there are no more ships that could be called upon – they are all either at sea or deep in refit.

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Apaches and HMS Ocean and Libya

Apache Attack Helicopter Takes Off from HMS Ocean

Image by Defence Images via Flickr

So, the Government have announced that Army Air Corps Apache’s will be joining the fray in Libya, along with French Tigers.

A couple of things spring to mind here. Firstly, it adds to suspicions that the COUGAR Task Group exercising around Cyprus were sent to the region to possibly work up for action in Libya. Even if not, a half-decent task force is at least nearby, a la First Flotilla at Gibraltar in 1982.

Secondly, that the use of Apaches from a Helicopter Carrier undermines the SDSR. Has it occured to anyone else that flying close air support, vertical flight aircraft from a Royal Navy flat top was discounted less than a year ago?

And finally… note that the Aircraft are ARMY, flying off a NAVY vessel. The ship can get in as close as it wants, anti-air and anti-ship defence pending, and the Apaches are there for giving close support to the anti-Gadaffi forces. No RAF involvement at all. Interesting to hear what the RAF PR department make of that one.

Interestingly, only days later there was a high-profile press release about the RAF getting ‘bunker-busting’ bombs for use in Libya. All the analysis seems to be, however, that the inability of the rebels to take the offensive to Gadaffi is their lack of heavy weapons on the battlefield. Something I can imagine the Apaches helping with a lot. Shame we can only put in three of them – imagine a full Squadron…

PS – any speculation about whether a certain well-known Apache pilot is out there?….

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Navy to the rescue? or a drop in the ocean?

There has been much publicity in the last few days about the Royal Navy ships sailing to the rescue of the thousands of Brits stranded in Spain. The BBC website even compared it to Dunkirk. Whilst its great that the Navy is able to help, lets try and get a few things in perspective.

HMS Albion is a 13,000 ton Landing Platforn Dock, commissioned in 2004. She is designed to land a military force, using Landing Craft and Helicopters. She can carry 300 troops over a long period, and 650 for short emergency situations. She has been deployed to Santander in northern France to bring home military personnel on their way home from Afghanistan, and a number of civilians. In 2006 her sister ship HMS Bulwark evacuated 1,300 people in one day. As civilians will take up much less space than soldiers and their equipment,

HMS Ocean is a 20,000 Landing Platform Helicopter, or Heliopter Carrier. She entered service in 1998. She has a very similar role to Albion, only using Helicopters more than Landing Craft. She can normally carry up to 800 me for short periods. This, however, is while the air group is embarked, so potentially with more space in her hangar more could possibly be accomadated.

HMS Ark Royal is the current Flagship of the Royal Navy. An Invincible Class Aircraft Carrier, she weighs in at 20,000 tons. Her primary role is to operate Harriers, but she can also act as a Helicopter Carrier in a similar manner to HMS Ocean. Ark Royal is currently at sea off the west cost of Scotland, with her air group embarked. Therefore to use her to evacuate civilians from Spain will take her – the UK’s only active aircraft carrier – away from an important exercise.

Between the three ships we are looking at a lift capacity of somewhere in the region of 3,000 people. However according to the BBC, there are somewhere in the region of 150,000 British nationals stranded around the world – a drop in the ocean indeed. Given that a run from northern Spain to the south of England will take the best part of a day, the three ships will make an almost microscopic dent in the backlog of Brits needing help.

Not only that, but the three ships represent almost all of the Royal Navy’s large assets – having them removed from duties dents the capability of the Royal Navy. They are not designed to carry large amounts of people, in the same manner as a roll-on-roll-off ferry or a cruise liner. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary does possess four Bay Class Landing Ships which would be ideal, but they are very stretched indeed.

Its great that the Royal Navy is able to assist in this kind of a crisis, but in this particular example it is hard to argue that their contribution is important. If, for example, thousands of Briton’s needed evacuating from a far-away country with little infrastructure, such as Lebanon, the Landing Craft and Helicopters would be absolutely invaluable. That would be exactly the kind of job the Navy is there for.

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