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HMS Cossack Altmark

RFA Wave Knight Gibraltar Squadron

40 Cdo/847 NAS/ 857 NAS/ FDG/1710 NAS

HMS Heron Sub- Aqua Club

FS Surcouf

HMS Westminster HMS Ambush



HMS Queen Elizabeth PORTSMOUTH

HMS Lancaster HMS Severn

HMS Clyde RFA Gold Rover

HMS Protector Plus one strategic missile submarine on patrol somewhere beneath the Seven Seas HMS Edinburgh

HMS Monmouth HMS Northumberland HMS Enterprise HMS Trenchant HMS Quorn HMS Atherstone HMS Shoreham HMS Ramsey RFA Cardigan Bay RFA Fort Victoria

Naval Party 1022

FLEET FOCUS Protecting our nation’s interests

JANUARY is a month for refl ection on the year past and anticipation of the year to come.

February is a month for purging and purification. Getting rid of

pirates would be a good place to start. Which is exactly what 217 Flight/815 NAS did by stopping a pirate action group with the French frigate Surcouf (see right). It’s been a dramatic few weeks in the life of Britain’s newest nuclear submarine HMS Ambush. The hunter-killer has been handed over to the MOD – which means she now flies the White Ensign – and has completed diving and speed trials, where she proved a particularly challenging foil for frigate HMS Westminster (see opposite). HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed up the Thames to Parliament to give our political leaders an idea of the scale of Britain’s biggest warship – courtesy of a little help from graphic designers (see page 8). The future carrier was also blessed by a visit from Oscar-winner Sir Ben Kingsley, who paid a surprise visit to Rosyth where she’s being completed (see page 6). A combined effort by sailors from HMS Severn and HMS Lancaster prevented a holed tug from sinking off Torbay, while just three days later HMS St Albans towed a fishing boat to safety off Rame Head (see page 5); and the fliers of HMS Gannet saved the life of a hypothermic climber near Glen Coe (see pages 14-15). That last rescue occurred in the wake of the launch of Search

and Rescue 60, celebrating six decades of life-saving helicopter missions by the Fleet Air Arm (see page 9). It’s not just the weather in the UK which has demanded the RN to come to the aid of others. Ice patrol ship HMS Protector punched her way through the Antarctic floes to assist the cruise liner Fram which was at risk of becoming trapped (see pages 14-15). Right, that’s quite enough of the cold. We want cheering up with some sun.

Tanzania during a break from counter-piracy duties (see page 21). The Naval Air Command Sub-Aqua Club from HMS Heron went diving on wrecks in the warm, azure waters off Ascension (see page 19)...

HMS Northumberland spruced up a community centre in

...and the divers of HMS Atherstone plunged into the warm, not-so-azure waters of the Gulf as they began 2013 with a bang, disposing off lots of old plastic explosive (see page 10). The Bahrain-based minehunter also linked up with frigate HMS Monmouth for some mutually-beneficial training; it’s been a hectic month for the Black Duke – escorting tankers, practising pirate take- downs, avoiding incoming missiles, plenty of gunnery funnery, etc etc ad infinitum (see the centre pages). The remainder of the Gulf minehunting force – HM Ships

Shoreham, Ramsey, Quorn and RFA Cardigan Bay – have celebrated six years of the RN’s presence in the region (see page 10). Back from the Gulf is HMS Diamond, who completed her maiden deployment right at the end of 2012, as did HMS Blyth (coming home from the Med on NATO duties) and Sutherland (back from the Indian Ocean) – see page 4. Meanwhile, heading off on deployment as the year opened: tanker

RFA Wave Knight (to the Caribbean – see page 5) and 847 NAS (to Afghanistan – see page 6). For the latter, this is the final time they’ll fly their trusty Lynx. When they return, they’ll convert to the new Wildcat.

Also deployed for the final time is HMS Edinburgh; Britain’s last 42 has been in South Africa soaking up the austral summer before resuming Atlantic Patrol South duties (see page 13). And finally... Older readers might remember an insolent ventriloquist’s dummy from HMS Ark Royal IV and the Sailor documentary in the 1970s. Well, Little Wilf is back... and promises to be just as cheeky when he sails with new destroyer HMS Daring later this year (see page 16).

Picture: Marine Nationale

Sir George to succeed Sir Mark

Le crunch moment

THIS is the moment Royal Navy fl iers helped the French snare a

pirates off the Somali coast. A Lynx from 815 Naval Air Squadron hovers overhead as a boarding team from the French frigate FS Surcouf closes in on a ‘pirate action group’ off the Somali coast.

The capture marked the end of a dramatic 24-hour chase through the Indian Ocean after the Surcouf – which is the mother ship for 217 Flight in a unique Anglo-French deployment – and the USS Halyburton responded to an SOS from the merchantman MSC Jasmine after she came under attack from pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenades around 260 miles off Somalia. The crew of the container ship, bound for Kenya,

retreated to

an impregnable citadel aboard their 31,000-ton vessel, while the Halyburton sent her helicopter aloft to scour the sea for the attackers.

It found the suspect whaler – which by then was towing another vessel with several men aboard. Meanwhile the Surcouf was making best speed to the scene – she was 200 nautical miles away from the location of the attack when the merchantman sent out her distress call. With the sun rising over the

dozen suspected

Indian Ocean on Sunday morning, le chef du détachement aero (fl ight commander) Lt Mike Curd and pilot Lt Chris Southworth lifted off the deck of the Surcouf and went in search of the suspect vessels in their Lynx, while the frigate’s boarding party headed out in fast boats. The helicopter, normally based

at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, quickly located one boat with two men in it – and ordered it to stop. The suspects did so,


their engine and putting their hands behind their heads. When the Surcouf boarding team subsequently searched the craft, they found no weapons, only a dozen fl asks and a couple of cans fi lled with petrol.

With the suspects detained, the Surcouf and Lynx went in search of – and again quickly located – the second vessel.

Once again the Lynx ordered

the boat to stop… and once again the boat, this time with ten men aboard, obliged.

“Our Lynx actually performed

the ‘stop’ and support to boarding of both the suspect vessels and provided airborne support to the subsequent boarding operations,” explained Lt Curd. “It was a long and tiring day

that began before dawn, but by the end of it we were proud of a job well done; the procedures

and routines we’d practised so many times worked extremely effi ciently and by nightfall we knew we had played a large part in the successful apprehension of a dozen suspected pirates.” All

12 men arrested – all

Somalis – were subsequently transferred to the Surcouf while the team aboard the ship gather evidence for possible future legal proceedings. It was the fi rst saisie (bust) of the winter for the 815 Lynx-Surcouf combination; the double act are attached to the European Naval Force on Operation Atalanta until next month, dividing their time between hunting down pirate action groups and safeguarding aid shipments to Somali. In the six days before Christmas


frigate safely shepherded a shipment of cereal on the MV Rockaway Bell from Salalah in Oman to Mombasa in Kenya. The Surcouf’s Lynx was

airborne throughout the 1,700- mile escort mission, conducting daily surveillance missions of the vast ocean. Thanks to such escort duties and the combined efforts by inter- national naval forces prowling the Indian Ocean these past 12 months ensured only five ships were hijacked in 2012 – and none have been seized by pirates since last May.

FOLLOWING a 43-year career with the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope is to stand down as the head of the Service in April. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced that Admiral Sir George Zambellas will succeed Sir Mark as the Chief of the Naval Staff. Sir Mark has been head of the Senior Service since July 2009. In a career which began in 1970, the submariner commanded two boats – Orpheus and Splendid – then frigate HMS London and carrier HMS Illustrious. After two years as Commander-in-Chief Fleet, he succeeded Admiral Sir Jonathon Band as First Sea Lord in July 2009.

Sir George, who joined the Royal Navy in 1980, is a former helicopter pilot who’s commanded three ships – minehunter Cattistock, and frigates Chatham and Argyll – and was in charge of the UK’s amphibious forces helping to introduce HMS Albion and Bulwark unto service. He and his staff supported Operation Highbrow, the evacuation of civilians from the Lebanon, in July 2006. Most recently he was Fleet Commander – the second most senior post in the RN – until November 2011 and is currently Commander Allied Maritime Command (Northwood) for NATO.

He takes over from Sir Mark at a time when there are numerous changes in post in the upper echelons of the MOD as announced by Mr Hammond. Air Marshal Sir Andrew

Pulford will take over as the head of the RAF from Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton in July; Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach will become Vice Chief of the Defence Staff in May 2013; and an announcement on the new Chief of the Defence Staff to take over from General Sir David Richards will be made next month.

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