10 NAVY NEWS, OCTOBER 2011
Picture: MC1 Lynn Friant, US Navy
Pembroke on public show
US minehunting exercise. Three of Britain’s quartet of minehunters joined in the workout (Ramsey on the left, Pembroke on the right and, out of shot, HMS Quorn) while the Americans committed aircraft from their specialist Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron HM15 plus Avenger-class minehunter USS Gladiator – like the RN vessels a seemingly constant presence in the Gulf. The American naval forces come under the banner of the US Fifth Fleet which directs operations from an impressive modern headquarters in Bahrain…
region, the UK Maritime Component Command, responsible for directing the operations of the dozen-plus Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels spread across some 2½ million square miles of ocean east of Suez.
Some of the UKMCC team left their desks behind for a day and joined Pembroke for a demonstration day to see what the small Sandown-class warship can do. Pembroke was accompanied out of harbour in Bahrain by US security boats who provide extra protection for ships using this vital hub of naval operations in the Gulf. With the American boats still in company with Pembroke, demonstrations were already under way onboard the vessel courtesy of a fire-fighting exercise. Fire dealt with by the damage control team, the ship made her way to the exercise area where a dummy mine was laid… …and promptly found by the ship’s Sonar 2093. For confirmation that the contact was indeed a mine,
Pembroke launched her small red Seafox system. Steered from the Sandown-class ship’s operations room it first finds the contact by sonar, then its camera, and, if necessary, disposes of the target by attaching a small warhead. Once back on the surface, Seafox was placed in the hands of the visitors who had a go at steering the small underwater vehicle back to the ship.
The guests also got their hands on another joystick, this time driving Pembroke herself after the bridge team had shown just how manoeuvrable the warship is thanks to her unique Voith Schneider propulsion system which means she can spin on the spot if required.
…which is also home to the senior Royal Navy HQ in the
A MINI rainbow (minus the rain or, er, bow for that matter) is created as downwash from an SH-60 Sea Hawk whips up the waters of the Gulf during a UK-
The ration revolution YOU never forget your
first rat pack. We’re not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing, but it’s the thought that counts.
In the heat of the Gulf, HMS St Albans’ boarding team hand some food to the crew of one of the countless dhows plying their trade in these waters – part of the hearts and minds effort by the Saint to show she’s here to help.
With the minehunter back in the hands of the ship’s company she was guided safely back to Bahrain. Next stop Abu Dhabi and an unexpected visitor. Pembroke was taking a break from training in the Gulf with a few days in the UAE metropolis. The stop-off coincided with a visit to the region by Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt, who’s responsible for North Africa and the Middle East. A change to the MP’s programme afforded him the chance to visit Pembroke and learn about the RN’s work in the region, accompanied by a journalist from The National, Abu Dhabi’s English-language newspaper.
Hence this AA – Alongside Assurance – visit, one of hundreds carried out by the Portsmouth-based frigate on her patrols around the Gulf. Sailors and Royal Marines draw up in the Type 23’s sea boats alongside the fishing dhows, discuss any blazing issues, and present gifts of food and water – always welcome in the sweltering conditions experienced this time of year. The ship’s doctor is also on hand to assist with any medical issues under our commitment to assist ill mariners. If it sounds a bit touchy feely,
it’s an indispensable way of gaining the trust and respect of local mariners – and above all to find out what’s going on. Whilst the very presence of a warship can represent a substantial deterrent to smugglers, the Saint needs to single out criminals from the
fisherman and merchants that ply their trade in the area.
Gulf and its coastal region
largest source of crude oil in the world with hundreds of supertankers transiting through every day; it is also at the crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia, making it an important route for trade among these continents.
that wizardry and gadgetry with which St Albans bristles. The infra-red cameras, radars, the 829 NAS Merlin with its surveillance suite, the satellite
And yes, you can use all
Not only is the the single
imagery beamed in from headquarters alongside other intelligence reports.
with fishermen. There’s always room for the human touch. “We normally visit over ten fishing dhows a day and the people we meet onboard are always glad to see us,” said L/Cpl Ben Glover, one of the Royal Marines Commandos in the Saint’s ‘green’ boarding team. “It’s amazing to watch the effect that giving them just a simple ration pack can make! “These
obviously used to living on the bare essentials, so a bit of cold water and food goes a long way. “The fishermen are normally happy to chat with us and every little thing we learn about their way of life can potentially help us beat the smugglers.” His ship is currently operating under the banner of
guys are Or you can have a nice chat
the Combined Maritime Forces, the three international naval task groups (150, 151 and 152) which strive to keep the waters east of Suez safe and free. In the case of the Saint,
the pertinent number is 152, responsible for the entire Gulf from the shores of Iraq to the Strait of Hormuz, working alongside the other navies and coastguards in the region to ensure the safe passage of mariners.
“Everybody onboard understands that the important work we are
doing in the
Gulf, helping to secure these important trading routes is vital to both the UK and the rest of the world,” stresses the frigate’s operations officer, Lt Cdr Will King.
“Whilst we go about our security
patrols, building our
understanding of the area, we will remain at a state of high readiness, able to react to any event whatever it may require of us whether it’s humanitarian relief or military combat operations.”
Pictures: LA(Phot) Simmo Simpson, FRPU East
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