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Ultra effi cient Bulwark

THE nation’s fl agship is also the nation’s most effective warship – so deem the powers that be. HMS Bulwark’s efforts in a

very busy 2012 earned her the Efficiency Pennant – a small blue and white standard which reflects the efforts of her ship’s company to maintain the highest levels of operational capability. Last year saw the assault ship

lead exercises in the Arctic (Cold Response), shield Olympic sailing events in Weymouth Bay for two months (Operation Olympics) and, almost straight afterwards, head to the Mediterranean to be in charge of the Cougar task group deployment. In all, 2012 placed great demands on the ship’s company – and they rose to the challenge, as acknowledged by Rear Admirals Duncan Potts, Rear Admiral Surface Ships, and Clive Johnstone, Flag Officer Sea Training.

They presented the RN Capability Award and Efficiency Pennant – the latter collected by the longest-serving junior rating aboard the 18,500-ton capital ship, 27-year-old Ch Michael Farnaby.

“The ship’s worked hard over the past year during a hugely- varied programme. It’s great that our work has been recognsied at such a high level of the Navy,” he said. Bulwark’s Commander

Engineering, Cdr Nigel Wright, was singled out for a Standing Joint Commander (UK) commendation for his work contributing to the success of Op Olympics. Bulwark’s CO Capt Andrew

Burns is delighted that the dedication of his 320-strong ship’s company (80 of whom are Royal Marines Commandos of 4 Assault Squadron) in 2012 have been recognised on high. “The ship’s company delivered an extraordinary range of activity on behalf of Defence during 2012,” he said. “Bulwark executed each task to an exceptionally high standard and I’m delighted that this has been recognised. “Every member of the Bulwark team should be justifiably proud of their achievements.” As the UK’s flagship and on-call assault ship, 2013 continues at a similar pace: Operational Sea Training, the latest Joint Warrior exercise in north-west Scotland and another Cougar task group deployment.

Meet Duncan, Duncan, Duncan... THIS, we believe, is the largest gathering

of Duncans in nearly 30 years. There are 99 Duncans in this photograph by LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins. We know, because we counted them…

Admittedly some are called Phil. There’s a Karl in there. And a James. And at least a dozen women – and Duncan is not renowned for being a feminine name. This is just over half the ship’s company of HMS Duncan – the sixth and fi nal Type 45 destroyer – grouped on the grass in front of the main mast at HMS Nelson. The air defence destroyer now has a full complement of sailors as more than 80 men and women, mostly junior ratings, offi cially joined the ship’s company. Their joining means the entire Type 45 fl eet is ‘crewed up’ – well over 1,100 souls in all,

spread among Her Majesty’s Ships Daring, Dauntless, Diamond, Dragon, Defender and now Duncan.

Although Duncan is now fully manned, the new joiners won’t be setting foot on their ship until she arrives in Portsmouth next month; she’s in the fi nal stages of fi tting out at BAE’s Scotstoun yard following two spells of sea trials last year. Instead, they’ll be dispersed among the

fi ve Ds, all based in the Solent and, right now, all at home (Daring’s just emerged from maintenance, Dauntless and Diamond are recently back from deployment, Dragon is gearing up for her maiden deployment and Defender is going through training ahead of her commissioning – see page 12). Among the new joiners pictured above in the

January sunshine is AB(WS) Karl Murray. “I am extremely excited to be joining one

of the most advanced warships in the world – particularly with this being my fi rst draft on a ship since joining the Royal Navy,” he said. “I am looking forward to fi nding out more about her roles and capabilities during our forthcoming period of sea trials.” As for ‘Phil’ and ‘James’, well Phil is Cdr Phil

Game, the ship’s senior naval offi cer who has guided Duncan from the day she was launched in October 2010, while James is Cdr James Stride, the destroyer’s fi rst commanding offi cer. And Duncan? Well, the destroyer takes her name from Admiral Adam Duncan, 1st Viscount Duncan of Camperdown, who routed the Dutch fl eet in the North Sea in 1797; the tactics he used are believed to have inspired Nelson’s actions eight years later at Trafalgar. His name was last carried by one of Her Majesty’s Ships from 1957 to 1984, courtesy of a Type 14 frigate.

Last Lynx over Helmand

THE wings of the Royal Marines have headed out to Afghanistan for the fi nal time – in their current guise at any rate.

Air and ground crew of 847

Naval Air Squadron left their home at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset in early January to begin a fi ve-month stint in support of Allied troops on the ground, including their brethren from 40 Commando on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand. It’s the last time the squadron – one of three front-line units in the Commando Helicopter Force – will fl y the trusty Lynx helicopter on active service after four decades.

When they return from Afghanistan, the squadron will begin

converting to the new

Wildcat, successor to the Lynx, as it begins to enter service with the Army Air Corps and Fleet Air Arm.

Until then, however, the fi nal

variant of the Lynx the 847 men and women will be using – the Mk9A – remains a potent weapon. The Mk9A has more powerful engines which provide an all- year capability with the helicopter’s performance not too badly affected by extreme temperatures. The 7.62 mm General

Purpose Machine Gun on the old skidded Lynx, which were phased out by 847 last

year, has

been replaced by the .5in M3M Browning on the Mk9A, which has a longer range,

multi-role ammunition.

The squadron spent much of 2012 preparing for its current mission, including more than a month in southern California at El Centro air base, where conditions to some degree replicated those in Afghanistan – certainly far better than anywhere in the UK might. While deployed, 847 will be based at Camp Bastion, from

improved accuracy and

where the helicopters will carry out essential surveillance and reconnaissance missions while also supporting ground troops. “In many ways it is the end of an era as the Lynx has served us and the Army so well since the 1970s. The variant we are taking over to Helmand is the Lynx Mk 9A, which is optimised to deal with harsh conditions such as the heat, dust and mountain ranges in Afghanistan,” said Lt Col Nick Venn RM, 847 NAS’s Commanding Offi cer.

“It is ideal for the environment and the boys and girls of this squadron have been training really hard over the past few months to prepare themselves for theatre. “We’re really excited that when

we return around May time we will be the fi rst to work with the new Wildcats in service. They are incredible machines.”

One of the Lynx teams now deployed consists of 24-year-old

£9m invested in new 9mm

GO AHEAD, make my day. Except that this obviously isn’t a .357 Magnum in the hands of commando Sgt Steve Lord. It’s a 9mm Glock 17 – which in the coming weeks and months will become the standard-issue pistol of Britain’s Armed Forces. Some 25,000 Glock 17s will replace the long-serving Browning following a £9m deal with Viking Arms in Harrogate to provide the military with their fi rst new standard-issue pistol in more than 40 years. The Glock 17 Gen 4 – to give it the full title – is not only much lighter than

the Browning currently in use, it is also more accurate and its magazines can carry more bullets (17 compared with its predecessor’s 13). Personnel across all three Services will receive the new pistol with priority given to troops deployed to Afghanistan. Commando units, such as 40 Commando currently deployed in Helmand, typically use the weapon for close-quarters fi ghting, room entry, and when reconnaissance teams are on missions.

All Royal Marines and Royal Navy personnel deployed to Afghanistan are pistol-qualifi ed and those working in forward headquarters carry a pistol. Away from the sands of Helmand, pistols

two years ago. 6 : FEBRUARY 2013

Brownings were proving increasingly diffi cult to maintain so a contract for a replacement was put out by Whitehall

pistols are carried in Royal Navy armouries for use by aircrew, divers and offi cers involved in boarding operations. WO1 Mark Anderson RM, who tested the new Glock before the contract was awarded, said: “Pistols are vital in close combat and are a key part of a soldier’s armoury. Reliable, light and easy to carry, the Glock inspires confi dence and performs exceptionally well.” After four decades of trusty service the long-standing

Picture: Andrew Linnett, DE&S As for the dark blue world of the Senior Service,

– they can be exposed in their turrets and have limited ability to bring longer-barrelled weapons to bear.

are used heavily by Royal Marines boarding teams from 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group, and by Viking vehicle commanders

Gandhi on the gantry

ENJOYING a privileged view of Britain’s future fl agship HMS Queen Elizabeth, this is one of the nation’s greatest actors. In a fl uorescent jacket and hard hat. In the control cab of Goliath, one of the UK’s biggest cranes. Sir Ben – of Gandhi and Schindler’s List fame among other great fi lms – was shown around the 104-year-old dockyard, built just over a century ago as a base in WW1 for battle-cruisers. Today the same yard is piecing together the capital ships of the 21st Century, led by the Queen Elizabeth.

The Oscar-winning actor

enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the 65,000-tonne leviathan, which is nearing completion, by climbing into the cab of the Goliath crane.

The crane towers more than 200ft above the dockyard and moves sections of the ship weighing up to 1,000 tonnes.

him. The last person you expect to meet on a cold morning in Rosyth is a Hollywood star,” said heavy handling engineer Alex Keatings. “He was really interested to

The 69-year-old actor has been looking into the possibility of a Great War-themed fi lm; he visited HMS Raleigh a couple of years ago as part of his research to see the inspiring painting of Jack Cornwell VC, the boy sailor posthumously awarded Britain’s highest military honour for his bravery at Jutland.

 Progress on the QE, page 8

“I did a double take when I saw

learn more about the work we’re doing.”

pilot Lt Alex Lovell-Smith, AET Tom Wallis, 22, and Royal Marine L/Cpl Ross Howling, 25, who’s on his second tour of duty; for his colleagues, this is their fi rst taste of Helmand… and their last taste of the Lynx. “You do build up an attachment to the aircraft,” said Lt Lovell- Smith. “The Lynx continues to serve the Armed Forces extremely well and will be missed. But we are looking forward to the opportunity of being the fi rst to work on the Wildcat as it is always exciting to work on brand new aircraft.” The Wildcat, built and designed by AgustaWestland in Yeovil,


due to enter active service later this year. It is fi tted with more powerful engines so it operates well in extreme heat such as in Afghanistan, where the air is thinner and dustier. Yeovilton will become the home of the entire Army and Navy Wildcat fl eet, with a centre-of- excellence training academy.

’set for new adventures

HMS Somerset has returned to sea after nine months out of action undergoing a £20m overhaul in her home base. The frigate is being put

through her paces off the South Coast – a chance for ship and ship’s company to shake off the refi t cobwebs.

Following four six-month deployments to the Middle East in fi ve years, the most recent one to the Gulf ending in March 2012, it was time for a spot of ‘regeneration’ courtesy of the shipwrights and technical experts at Babcock. Given the ship’s punishing schedule over the past fi ve years, her refi t allowed crew to spend more concerted time at home, as well as fi t in the requisite training and other courses ready to breathe fresh life into the frigate.

has received a new ‘brain’ – the DNA(2) command system which is central to her ability to deal with threats in the air, on the surface and under the ocean – the latest variant of the SeaWolf missile system, which effectively doubles its range coping with incoming enemy missiles and aircraft, and the latest MOD computer system (DII(F)) has been installed making it easier for the ship to share information with the rest of the RN and Armed Forces. Chefs should enjoy working in a new-look galley, while most of Somerset’s weapons systems and sensors have undergone upgrades and alterations and new coats of paint applied to the hull – not only making her look smarter but also allowing her to cut through the seas more effi ciently. All in all, a very

comprehensive package – completed, says Babcock’s managing director Mike Whalley “safely, effi ciently, to quality, and on time”.

It now falls to Somerset’s CO Cdr Mike Smith and his team to turn what was a lifeless hull back into a fi ghting unit ready to cope with any demands placed on her. “I’m incredibly proud to be taking Somerset back to sea after what has been a highly- productive upgrade,” he said. “The ship now has increased capability to meet the needs of an adaptable Royal Navy and is ready to return to the active fl eet.”

As for their ship, Somerset

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