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RFA mainstay Astute is
of Gulf ops almost
VETERAN landing ship RFA
Sir Bedivere met an old friend fi nished
on her way to work with the Iraqi
AFTER years of waiting,
The venerable knight sailed
the Navy’s fi rst hunter-killer
into Bahrain as she made her way
submarine in a generation will
to the northern Gulf to serve as
launch this month.
a ‘mother ship’ for Iraq’s coastal
HMS Astute is set to emerge
from the huge construction hall
And in Bahrain she found RFA
at BAE Systems’ Barrow yard
Stromness – or, more accurately,
on June 8 – almost the end of
USNS Saturn – supporting the
a journey which begin in July
American fleet as once she had
1994 when Whitehall invited
done the British.
tenders from business to build
The Americans snapped up
three Fleet submarines.
the Ness class for their Military
GEC Marconi was picked to
Sealift Command – the US
build the trio – and possibly
counterpart to the RFA – more
two more boats – in December
than two decades ago when
1995 but it has taken more
Whitehall decided it didn’t need
than 11 years, and a takeover
these support ships any more.
of the Barrow yard by BAE, to
They have promptly squeezed
turn those original plans into an
a good quarter century out of the
7,800-tonne leviathan.
vessels (Stromness/Saturn will
Astute’s designers claim
finally pay off in 2009).
she is a more complex piece
Stromness and Sir Bedivere ● Carve her name with pride... Dumbarton Castle sails past the boulders which celebrate her association with the Falklands
of kit than the Space Shuttle.
took shape a stone’s throw from
Inside her 97m (318ft) hull are
each other on the Tyne in the
23,000 pipes (which run to more
And Capt Shaun Jones,
Bedivere’s CO, and his chief
engineering officer Capt Bob
Settle, were amazed to find that
much of Saturn was as she was in
her RFA days.
Older and boulder
than six miles) and more than
60 miles of cables, while her
computer systems are driven
by fi ve million lines of software
All of this is enclosed within
the outer casing, which is
The ratings’ accommodation is
covered with 39,000 acoustic
named China Town in honour of
POSSESSING the longest
a job, and it couldn’t be Dumbarton Castle is one services in San Carlos and Horse
the many Hong Kong sailors who
done,” said CPO Jamie of the dwindling number Guards Parade in London on June
once served aboard. The ward
ship name in the Royal
On a more personal level, for
Stewart from Scarborough, of Falklands veterans still 17.
room, cabins, communications
Navy is not always an
the fi rst time submariners will
who co-ordinated the in RN service, but her “It’s been a privilege to be asked
no longer have to ‘hot bunk’
office and bridge would also advantage.
‘rock garden’ effort. days in the islands will to lay such a permanent reminder
but will be given their own
all be instantly recognisable to In fact, it can sometimes weigh
Time was limited to end this summer as of what Dumbarton Castle has
beds; there are even 11 spare
former crew. a few hundred tons...
three days as DC was HMS Clyde replaces meant to the Falkland Islanders,”
bunks for visiting crew/VIPs/
After the nostalgia, Sir But after all that effort, at least
due back on patrol. her for good. said her Commanding Offi cer Lt
Bedivere was brought up to date the name Dumbarton Castle
The island’s Public Before she departs Cdr Ian Lynn.
It will be Easter 2008 before
as she arrived in the northern is there for all in the capital of
Works Department the islands with “Dumbarton Castle has made
she appears at her home base
Arabian Gulf to train Iraqi sailors the Falkland Islands to see in
provided a digger to which she will forever her mark positively over the years
of Faslane and 2009 before she
and marines – a role previously perpetuity.
help, while the sailors be associated, she will through an enthusiastic ‘can do’
is commissioned.
carried out by RFA Diligence. The ‘Last Castle’ (so called
selected many of the play a central role in this approach and professionalism.
Boats two and three in the
The idea of stationing the because, er, she is the last Castle-
rocks from the nearby month’s 25th anniversary “This has been a fi tting fi nale
£3.6bn programme, HM Ships
knight at the top end of the Gulf class ship under the White Ensign)
Pony Pass Quarry. commemorations of the for this dedicated Royal Navy
Ambush and Artful, will be
is to increase the endurance of is in hallowed company on the
An Army four-tonne truck liberation of the Falklands. warship. Good luck to HMS Clyde
rolled out within two years of
Iraqi patrol boats, sparing them a hillside overlooking Stanley,
then brought the rocks to within a There will be a live link between on her arrival.”
Astute’s launch.
three-hour run in and out of the where the names of previous ships
mile of their fi nal location.
Khawr abd Allah to their base at which have guarded this far-flung
After that the sleet, 40-knot
Umm Qasr. outpost of empire are marked in
winds and snow made it very
Beyond serving as a forward huge rocks: Beagle, Barracuda,
boggy for Lt Dan Peskett, DC’s
operating base for the mixture of Protector and Endurance.
Marine Engineer Offi cer, in a
patrol craft and fast aluminium But before DC could join
Land Rover as he carried the rocks
boats, Sir Bedivere is being used such illustrious company there
even closer to the hillside, but the
to assist Iraqi sailors’ navigational was the small matter of shifting
fi nal leg relied entirely on Jack’s
training. Endurance’s name 200 metres to
raw power.
British sailors and Royal the left.
The final touches were added
Marines head a unit at Umm So after moving 88 tonnes of
by the local Sea Cadet unit who
Qasr – the Naval Transition Team rocks and boulders, the DC team
performed invaluable service by
– which is overseeing the training finally got to work on enshrining
painting the stones white so the
of the Iraqi Navy with the aim of their own ship.
name can now be seen proudly
handing over security duties in She may be a small ship, but that
from all over Stanley.
the country’s waters to it in due long name means a big task: each
“You could really sense the
course. letter is around 15 metres (50ft)
belonging of Dumbarton Castle to
Other RFA assets in the high and seven metres (23ft) wide
the Falkland Islands,” said CPO
Gulf/Middle East region are and the rocks which comprise it
tanker RFA Bayleaf and ‘floating collectively weigh four tonnes.
“It was evident in the teamwork
warehouse’ RFA Fort Austin. “Talking with the people of
between the civilians and the
The former has been topping Stanley, they said it was too large
Royal Navy.”
up the latter. Fort Austin was
due to repay the generosity by
shipping several cases of beer
across to Bayleaf... but had
to break off the manoeuvre
An end to global reach
for another ‘more important’
task, much to Bayleaf’s
VETERAN round-the-world yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston
received a hero’s welcome from the Royal Navy at the end of his
Bayleaf’s tanker role is not
global challenge.
confined to supporting the British
Patrol boats HMS Puncher (nearest the camera below, as
Fleet in theatre. American,
pictured by LA(Phot) Luis Holden) and Trumpeter headed to Cowes
French and German warships
to escort the 68-year-old sailor and his yacht Saga Insurance up
have all benefited from the ship’s
the Solent for the fi nal leg of a journey which began in October.
In completing the global challenge, Sir Robin – who was a Royal
As for Fort Austin, she is
Naval Reservist in the ’50s and ’60s – became the oldest person
serving as the launch platform for
to make two solo journeys around the world; his fi rst success
‘bagger’ Sea Kings of 857 NAS
came four decades ago.
which are using their hi-tech
Just four of the original seven yachts entering the Velux 5
radars to search the Straits of
Oceans race crossed the fi nish line in Bilbao, Spain, with Sir
Hormuz and Horn of Africa for
Robin in fourth place; he did, however, knock 153 days off the
suspicious movements by sea.
non-stop record he set in 1968.
As well as celebrating Sir Robin’s return, the RN provided
moral support during his race with messages of good luck, while
’Pool’s back
HMS Endurance supplied ice reports to Velux race organizers
while the boats raced close to Antarctic waters.
in business
has returned to her Portsmouth
home after a six-month £7m
revamp in Rosyth.
The revamp by Babcock
included modifi cations to
the 4.5in gun to increase its
range, plus upgraded satellite
communication systems and
living accommodation.
The sail home from Scotland
allowed Cdr Henry Duffy and his
team to “test her engines to the
After further trials, Liverpool
will rejoin the fleet in June.
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