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HMS Illustrious
HMS Ark Royal
Vanguard-class HMS Dasher
submarine HMS Pursuer
RM Band
Vikings of 3 Cdo Bde/
Task Group Orion
HMS Sabre/Scimitar
HMS Scott
HMS Montrose
845 & 846 NAS, 539 ASRM
HMS Ocean
HMS Southampton
RFA Wave Ruler
HMS Monmouth
HMS Cornwall
HMS Sutherland
HMS Blyth
HMS Ramsey
RFA Sir Tristram
RFA Fort Austin
RFA Bayleaf
Warrior HMS Archer
814 NAS
857 NAS
ROSYTH HMS Endurance
HMS Somerset
HMS Manchester
HMS Dumbarton Castle
HMS Chatham
HMS Edinburgh/Exeter
HMS Brocklesby
HMS Mersey
HMS Quorn
Satellite imagery courtesy of NASA
FFleet Focusleet Focus
ONE glance at the map shows there are two distinct foci of
Senior Service operations at present: the Gulf and the Baltic.
The latter concentration is for Exercise Noble Mariner, the
UK-led maritime part of three-pronged NATO war games (see
page 6).
To prepare for Noble Mariner, ships and air squadrons taking
part headed to Scotland for Neptune Warrior (see the centre
pages), the biennial land-sea-air exercises run by Britain’s armed
forces (with a heavy RN slant).
As for the Gulf, it continues to be the heart of Britain’s maritime
effort east of Suez with a good half-dozen vessels seemingly
a permanent presence there. HMS Cornwall has resumed
boarding operations following March’s incident involving Iranian
Among the more recent arrivals in theatre is venerable landing
support ship RFA Sir Bedivere, which has taken up station in
the northern Gulf as ‘mother ship’ to Iraqi patrol boats protecting
their country’s oil platforms (see page 5).
The first part of HMS Ramsey’s and HMS Blyth’s marathon
Aintree deployment in Bahrain is over (turn to page 4). The hulls
are not done in the Gulf, but their crews are; they have flown
home while their comrades from HMS Pembroke and Penzance
have traded places with them in Bahrain. The minehunting
forces were joined by the experts of Fleet Diving Unit 3 for an
American-led exercise Arabian Gauntlet (also see page 4).
On her way to the Gulf is frigate HMS Richmond (turn to page
6), while her sister HMS Montrose is prowling the Mediterranean
for terrorists... and also submarines, having taking part in a major
NATO anti-submarine exercise (on page 4).
HMS Southampton topped up with fuel from tanker RFA
Wave Ruler (see page 6) at the beginning of the destroyer’s nine-
month tour of duty in the North and South Atlantic.
She will eventually take over from her younger sister HMS
Edinburgh (currently crewed by the men and women of HMS
Exeter) which has been dodging icebergs in South Georgia (see
page 23)... something HMS Endurance is rather used to. She’s
now on her way home, toasting her toes in South Africa (see page
10). Before leaving Antarctica for this season, some of her sailors
attempted a daring kayak expedition (see page 13).
● Bales of drugs are carried from a 700M NAS Merlin into HMS Ocean to be tested by the specialist narcotics handling team in the ship
Although veteran patrol ship HMS Dumbarton Castle is
Picture: LA(Phot) Ray Jones
gearing up to bid farewell to the Falklands for good, her name
will live on, marked in stone on the hillside opposite Stanley (see
page 5).
Also on the other side of the Atlantic, the RN’s biggest ship
– helicopter carrier HMS Ocean – snared £28m of cocaine during
an exciting chase in the Caribbean (see right).
Frigate HMS Chatham has divided her time between shooting
down aircraft (not real ones – see page 16) and visiting her Ocean’s twelve
namesake port (see page 27), while the good ships Manchester
and Mersey have also both called in on their affiliates (also on
page 27).
TWELVE bales of cocaine with a street value of some Ocean’s Commanding Officer Capt Russ Harding said: “This
The Band of HM Royal Marines have been getting used to a £28 million have been seized by helicopter carrier HMS
is excellent news, particularly as it bears all the hallmarks of good
new mission: providing security and support to British forces on Ocean, currently on anti-drug patrol in the Caribbean.
Cyprus (turn to page 16). In the first major drug bust for the carrier, the ship’s radars
“My ship’s company, assault squadron and air group, joined
Relatively nearby you will find the ships of Task Force Orion picked up a small aircraft flying over the sea and sent one of its
by the US Coast Guard forces, have worked closely with one
– RFA Cardigan Bay plus minehunters Walney, Shoreham, Sea King Mk 7 (Airborne Surveillance and Control) to keep an
another to form a really tight unit aimed at taking drugs out of
Atherstone and Hurworth – as their Mediterranean deployment eye on the suspicious aircraft.
the hands of smugglers and dealers.
begins in earnest in the Peloponnese (see page 8). The 854 NAS ‘eye in the sky’, with its sophisticated array of He added: “This haul gives us confidence in the value of that
So far the Orion ships have been blessed with good weather, sensors, tracked the smuggler’s plane as it slowed and dropped teamwork, our people and the equipment which we are using
unlike the fliers of 848 Naval Air Squadron, who were called the bales of cocaine into the sea for a waiting boat. and brings us much satisfaction in taking drugs off the streets.”
upon to evacuate scores of walkers from Dartmoor during this As the drug-runners in the boat began to haul in the half-tonne This latest success in the war on drugs brings the Navy’s catch
year’s washed-out Ten Tors challenge (see page 9). of narcotics, a Merlin from 700M NAS dropped from the sky, causing to over £1 billion in the last 15 months.
Nuclear test veterans have marked the 50th anniversary of panic in the boat below; its crew quickly abandoned its drugs pick-up Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne said: “HMS Ocean has
atomic bomb trials in Christmas Island – tests which continue to mission and fled the scene. scored a real success against the drugs trade which blights so many
cast a shadow half a century later for veterans. (see page 26). With the US Coast Guard in close pursuit of the fleeing boat, the lives.
And finally... there has been a flurry of Royal activity this past Merlin helicopter from RNAS Culdrose set about the task of retrieving “Her crew deserve congratulations for their fast work and
month with HRH Prince Charles visiting Devonport, Princess the drug bales from the sea.
professionalism, which has kept millions of pounds worth of drugs off
Anne visiting Portsmouth and Prince Edward calling in on the The dozen bales were taken back to the helicopter carrier where they
the streets.
RFA Headquarters on Whale Island (see page 40). were weighed, 480kg (just short of half a ton in old money).
“Scooping such a large haul is an impressive achievement.”
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