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Ping Pond for Auriga force

THE Pond being the North Atlantic, the ‘ping’ the distinctive

sound of sonar. Type 23 frigate HMS

Sutherland used her 3,000-mile crossing of the Ocean to keep the French under the knout as the RN’s fl agship deployment of the year – Auriga – gets under way in earnest. In company with Arleigh Burke destroyer USS Barry, Sutherland pinged the submarine accompanying the task group, FS Perle. A lot. By the time the trio, plus support ship RFA Fort George, had sailed into Norfolk, Virginia, Perle had been pinged an estimated 29,100 times. It wasn’t just the surface ships keeping up the pressure on the French boat. The Flying Tigers of 814 NAS – using Fort George as their floating base – support the ‘Hunt for Rouge October’ (aka ‘the Curse of the Black Perle’), proudly declaring that “not even an Icelandic volcano could stop us”. Two Flying Tigers – observer Lt Keith Esliger RCN and LACMN ‘Final’ Furlong spent 72 hours on the FS Perle. “It was an interesting experience but neither of us were keen to spend a 73rd hour on board,” said Final. Despite the near-constant pinging, the French gave as good as they got, simulating attacks on her two surface quarries. Of far greater concern than torpedo attacks on Sutherland was a near-collapse in morale: the NAAFI ran out of crisps. Crisis was averted courtesy of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – who hoisted a shiny new flag to celebrate the occasion. Devoid of a Replenishment at Sea flag, Fort George was helped out by the 814 chaps, who donated a ‘tasteful’ tiger- print duvet.

The ship subsequently shipped across enough boxes of crisps to keep the Sutherlanders munching until they reached the land where you’ll only find ‘potato chips’. Pinging and chomping

wasn’t all Sutherland did on her passage to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. She and the Barry carried out

numerous exercises with their helicopters, including boarding party training and rapid roping, during the crossing to ensure that the two ships fully understood each other’s modus


As the force approached American waters, it was joined by attack submarine USS Dallas, which was determined to sink Fort George. Resolved to protect the ‘high-value unit’ (and ensure a supply of crisps...) Sutherland and Barry fought off their foe. While that ‘battle’ raged, Sutherland’s ship’s offi ce was ferociously busy as sailors swapped pounds for dollars ($52,165 – in excess of £36K) ahead of arrival in Norfolk. Once in the largest naval base in the world, the sailors ‘bomb burst’ around the bazaars.

Some headed off for organised surfi ng lessons, paddle boarding and kayaking at Little Island Beach, some went shopping, some ‘socialised’ (ie went to the pub) and some stretched their legs in the sporting arena. Sutherland’s rugby team took

on the respected Norfolk Blues and ground out a 34-27 victory. Auriga fl agship HMS Ark Royal arrived in the States shortly after her escorts. The carrier had been held

A different perspective on Bulwark

in readiness in the UK to bring home stranded Britons from the Continent during the ash cloud crisis.

As it was, only HMS Albion was needed and Ark, as well as HMS Ocean – which had also been put on stand-by – were stood down.

AND well he might ponder...

the rare – and magnifi cent – sight of a leviathan out of the water.

A lone shipwright pauses to admire

Supported on blocks in Devonport’s No.8 dock, this is Her Majesty’s Ship Bulwark as viewed through the lens of her photographer, LA(Phot) Shaun Barlow.

This is the first time all 18,000 tons of the amphibious assault ship have been out of the water since her launch in November 2001. After more than five years’ active service, Bulwark is in need of her first refit (her older sister HMS Albion has already been through this process). Over the next six or so months, some

£30m will be spent on the warship as ship’s company and Babcock Marine overhaul the vessel, giving her everything from a shiny new coat of (energy-efficient) paint and better accommodation for her ship’s company and embarked Royal Marines, to new/improved machinery and ops room kit. Before all of that could start in earnest,

a lot of equipment on board had to be shipped to storage ashore, then Bulwark was edged into her new home (it’s a tight fit – there’s less than one metre either side at the widest part of the warship) and the waters pumped out. Bulwark is due to be re-floated in September but it will be early next year before she’s back at sea on trials. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56
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