Royal Navy minehunters are marking six years of keeping the waters of the Gulf safe – and maintaining the UK’s global lead in dealing with the still-present threat of mines. Since the end of 2006, Britain has maintained a permanent minehunter presence in the region – currently HMS Atherstone, Quorn, Shoreham and Ramsey.
ROYAL Navy minehunters are marking six years of keeping the waters of the Gulf safe – and maintaining the UK’s global lead in dealing with the still-present threat of mines.
Since the end of 2006, Britain has maintained a permanent minehunter presence in the region – initially two ships, since 2008 a four-strong force.
That constant presence has, says the man currently leading the operation Cdr Martin Mackey, “given the Royal Navy an extraordinary opportunity to deepen specialist knowledge and its force is widely acknowledged by most of their international colleagues as being world leaders.
“We’re looking forward to celebrating many more milestone achievements in the future.”
The mission began with Her Majesty’s Ships Ramsey and Blyth; come early 2008 it was decided the force – then known as Operation Aintree, today the ships come under the broad banner of the UK’s east of Suez mission, Operation Kipion – should be bolstered with a pair of Hunt-class ships to join the Sandowns.
Enter Her Majesty’s Ships Atherstone and Chiddingfold, plus a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ‘mother ship’ (presently RFA Cardigan Bay), which acts as a command and engineering ship and base for the Fleet Diving Squadron, who are experts in clearing mines in very shallow waters.
To sustain four warships in Bahrain, there’s a permanent engineering staff in port, the ship’s companies are rotated every six to seven months (Ramsey and Quorn’s latest crews return home in mid-January, while those aboard Atherstone and Shoreham are just settling in to their new surroundings).
As for the ships themselves, they’re brought home (7,500 miles for the Portsmouth-based Hunts, a couple of hundred more for the Sandowns based on the Clyde) for a refit every three to three and a half years.
Naval Today Staff, January 3, 2013; Image: Royal Navy