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10 NAVY NEWS, JANUARY 2011 Pictures: Lockheed Martin

● Commander-in-Chief Fleet Admiral Sir Trevor Soar chats with one of Pembroke’s divers about working in the challenging Gulf conditions

Four by two equals eight

HARSH environment, high tempo. It doesn’t come much tougher in skimmer world in peacetime than an eight-month slog in the Gulf (during the hottest period of the year) with a punishing schedule to maintain. Ask Mine Counter-Measures Crew 4, who

are now relaxing back in Blighty after two-thirds of a year aboard HMS Pembroke in Bahrain. Lest anyone think that the Gulf might become a backwater with the continued emphasis on Afghanistan and the current major effort against pirates off the Horn of Africa, well the Sandown crews would beg to differ. The latest ‘inhabitants’ of Pembroke, Sandown Crew 4, steamed 8,300 nautical miles, conducted over 300 diving serials, and carried out 360 mine disposal training missions using their Seafox remote- controlled submersible during their 248-day stint in Bahrain. “The crew should be very proud of all they have achieved,” said Lt Cdr Sarah West of the 34 sailors under her command. “I am very proud of the way they have performed and maintained full

operational readiness and capability, despite the harsh environment and high tempo.

have been exciting, challenging and extremely busy for Crew 4.” The commander of the four-strong RN mine counter-measures force in the Gulf, Cdr John Craig, said that the experience gained by the long-standing commitment to keep the group in Bahrain was really showing. “By now you would think I’d seen it all, but every time I deploy to the Gulf I see yet another improvement that reminds me how far we’ve come over the past four years,” he added. “Having spent more than thirty months in the Gulf in the last four

years alone, I have been consistently impressed by the proud fi ghting spirit of my crews, the fi rst-class availability of the world-leading minehunting equipment fi tted, and the tried-and-tested support organisation that keeps the ships at sea.” As well as operations and exercises at sea, Pembroke kept up a demanding physical fi tness regime. At the start of the deployment Lt Cdr West challenged a number of the ship’s company to run the Bahrain half marathon as a fi tness goal and test of team spirit. The race was held early in the morning to avoid the worst of the Bahrain heat and traffi c and all 20 sailors who accepted the challenge completed the course, with eight of the Pembrokes fi nishing in under two hours.

“The past eight months with HMS Pembroke in the Arabian Gulf

THIS is a Þ xed-wing jet. With N A V Y emblazoned on its fuselage Ð and to British naval aviators thatÕs a rare sight these days. In whatÕs been a very bitter few weeks for the zoomies, hereÕs the one glimmer of hope: the F35 Joint Strike Fighter. This is the very Þ rst naval variant of BritainÕs future carrier jet, the F35C, making its debut at ÔPaxÕ River, the US NavyÕs test ß ight school outside Washington DC. Although this Þ rst carrier JSF will be ß own by the US Navy Ð the man at the controls here is called Nelson, ÔDocÕ Nelson Ð thereÕs already a seven-strong RN team working behind the scenes to ensure the multi-billion-dollar project is a success.

Pensioners, then joined the veterans for a service of remembrance at the Old Christian Cemetery in Manama, the Bahraini capital. Responsibility for Pembroke now rests on the shoulders of Crew 2, who headed to the Gulf immediately after handing over the keys to the recently-decommissioned HMS Walney in Portsmouth Naval Base. “These will be big boots to fi ll, but I have every confi dence my team will do themselves and Pembroke proud,” said new CO Lt Cdr Angus Essenhigh. “My crew’s arrived in theatre trained, motivated and ready to carry on the excellent work undertaken by Crew 4.”

Before departing for the UK, Crew 4 also hosted a group of Chelsea

They had been working on the jump jet version of the JSF, the F35B Ð there are four jets undergoing tests and evaluation at Naval Air Station Patuxent, aka ÔPaxÕ, River in Maryland.

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● Pax men... Six of the seven-strong RN team at Pax River standing in front of a Joint Strike Fighter; (l-r) Lt Cdr Paul Holden, PO Mike Eland, CPO Yuki Ho, Cdr Bow Wheaton, PO Junior Cavan and WO Rik Lydall (the seventh man, PO Gary Lister, is not in the picture)

In the wake of OctoberÕs Strategic Defence Review, the UK pulled the plug on the B and plumped for a return to traditional carrier operations by buying the Model C instead Ð itÕs cheaper, has a greater range and a bigger payload, but it does require a return to Ôcats and trapsÕ for the Þ rst time since Ark Royal was in service (thatÕstÕÕ old Ark Royal, No.4 Sailor fame, not the recently-decommissioned No.5).

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While BritainÕs future carrier design team is working on Þ tting catapults and arrestor wires to the two 65,000-ton leviathans under construction (HM Ships Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales) the seven RN personnel at Pax are getting to grips with the technology behind the Joint Strike Fighter.

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The F35 Ð also known as the Lightning II Ð will be the worldÕs Þ rst Þ fth-generation Þ ghter (Meteors and Me262s are ÔÞ rst generationÕ; the Harrier is Ôthird generationÕ) which means massive changes for ground and air crew.

RAF and civilians Ð is working alongside US colleagues

help the development and testing of the JSF at Pax River.

A small UK team Ð RN, to


In total, there are 450 people swarming over the Þ ve JSFs now at the US naval air station, putting in six-day weeks to push the programme along. ÒVery few UK military personnel have any experience in developing, testing and the initial operation of a new Þ ghter,Ó explained Cdr Bow Wheaton, the UK Technical Lead with the Integrated Test Force at Pax.

Engine: Pratt & Whitney F135 afterburning turbofan generating 28,000lb thrust (43,000lb with afterburner) Wing Span: 43ft Length: 51½ft Speed: Mach 1.6 (1,228mph) Crew: one pilot Range: 1,200 nautical miles Combat radius: 640 nautical miles

Payload: 18,000lbs

ÒThe knowledge and experience gained by the team will be invaluable when we stand up our own JSF operating facility in a few years.Ó

international effort which has rallied to tackle the problems thrown up.

ÒThe truly impressive aspect is the size of the effort and resources made available to sort problems and redesign components and software when itÕs required,Ó said Cdr Wheaton.

For the maintainers in his team, there was a six-week JSF technical factory course to learn about the aircraft, then another course to get to grips with the strike fighterÕs Pratt and Whitney engine, before finally grappling with the test model aircraft in the hangar at Pax.

with... And thereÕs a lot to grapple

ÒThe past few months have been very, very busy,Ó said PO Junior Cavan.

ÒAs a ÔgrubberÕ I have had an exceedingly steep learning curve, gaining knowledge about an aircraft which is effectively a ß ying computer. ÒHonestly, the only task I can think of that isnÕt monitored or forecast by the aircraft computers is tyre wear, and IÕm sure they have plans for that!Ó


It is, says Cdr Wheaton, a Òtime-consuming and expensiveÓ process, but laying this groundwork now is vital to smooth the way for the JSF into service. Once all

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has been worked out and the pilots are happy, the next step is to move on to combat trials: testing the defensive and offensive mission systems and weaponry.

ÒThe UK team will be fully involved in this phase as well, ensuring that we get a carrier-based aircraft that is Þ t for purpose and that can work

alongside other UK

capabilities, like Typhoon and our own air-to-air refueling aircraft,Ó Cdr Wheaton added. ÒOver the next few years the

The jump jet variant of the strike fighter proved to be a huge engineering challenge Ð requiring a lot of unplanned maintenance. But whatÕs caught the eye of the RN team in Maryland is the

ITFÕs Royal Naval contingent will have a pivotal role in cre- ating, developing and verifying the maintenance procedures and practices used to operate the JSF ashore, embarked and in all climatic conditions.Ó

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At present the work purely revolves around the F35 as an aircraft Ð learning how to look after the aircraft, Þ x problems, carry out routine maintenance.

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