Her Majesty’s Ship Somerset has completed her first calendar month on operations in the Gulf and Indian Ocean, and it has been a busy period for the West Countries’ favourite warship.
t has been a challenging initial month for the Devonport-based frigate, which sailed from the UK on 9th January, and is now on task in the Middle East and ready to be called upon for any mission. Having now officially assumed the role as the Royal Navy’s continuous presence in the region after taking over from HMS Westminster in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, the crew are now doing the job they have spent the last year preparing for.
Commander Mike Smith, Royal Navy, Commanding Officer, HMS Somerset said: “The last month has allowed HMS Somerset to settle into her new role East of Suez. She is now ready to respond at a moment’s notice to any Multi-National Tasking. Somerset is at her height of readiness, ready to respond to whatever may be required of us, whilst maintaining the ability to train and exercise the crew.”
During the first month the crew have been constantly put through their paces, conducting boarding training in Souda Bay, Crete, and conducting live small arms’ firings using the Ship’s General Purpose Machine Guns and Mini Guns. Due to the unpredictable environment the Ship’s Company practices, on a daily basis, the reactions to incidents including potential floods, fires and a number of other situations.
HMS Somerset operates the Lynx HMA Mk 8 which is the Royal Navy’s Maritime Attack helicopter, capable of operating anywhere in the world from the back of a frigate or destroyer. With a crew of two highly trained aircrew as well as two Royal Marines or a winch-man, the Lynx can conduct anti-surface or anti-submarine warfare, force protection, search and rescue and load lifting. Holding the record for the fastest helicopter in the world, the Lynx is one of the ship’s primary weapon systems.
Petty Officer Christopher ‘Stanley’ Matthews, one of the HMS Somerset’s Flight Deck Officers, (FDO) said: “This is my first operational deployment as a qualified FDO, and I am proud to be part of the Flight Deck Crew responsible for the launch and recovery of the Mk8 Lynx. The fast pace of the first month deployed, has ensured Somerset is ready for anything. I am looking forward to what the remainder of the deployment will bring.”
In the last month, HMS Somerset has conducted two Replenishment at Sea (RAS) serials, one with US tanker USNS Laramie to embark fuel and the second with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fort Austin to transfer stores. The latter also provided an opportunity for two members of Somerset’s Ship’s Company to visit close family members serving in RFA Fort Austin. Petty Officer Hughes and Leading Seaman Rogers were reunited with their brother and sister respectively during the three hour evolution.
Writer Matthew Clark, who forms part of Somerset’s RAS team said, “These were my first RASs outside of training in UK territorial waters and I was pleased to have used my skills with a United States Tanker. It was very different completing a RAS for real outside the training environment, in the sun and in foreign waters; this is the kind of experience that made me join the Royal Navy in the first place.”
The Royal Navy works within coalition forces to conduct Maritime Security patrols across the Mediterranean Sea, Horn of Africa, Indian Ocean and the Gulf to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy and the unlawful use of the sea in order to protect global maritime security and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations.
Press Release, February 27, 2014, 2014; Image: Royal Navy