The UK Navy’s fifth Type-45 destroyer HMS Defender is on station east of Suez as she knuckles down to fighting pirates on her first deployment.
The Portsmouth-based warship – the fifth of six £1bn warships built to shield the Royal Navy’s Fleet from air and missile attack – has taken her place with the international force determined to stamp out the scourge of modern-day piracy.
Defender, which left her home base at the beginning of last month, joined forces with South Korean destroyer ROKS Munmu the Great, as part of Combined Task Force 151.
The group is one of three international naval forces committed to security and ensuring free passage of two and a half million square miles of ocean from the Suez Canal to the Seychelles, and into the Gulf, tackling piracy, terrorism and smuggling, and working with allied nations and navies in the region.
Thanks to these concerted efforts, piracy has been limited to a handful of attacks in the Indian Ocean this year – and none of them were successful.
So in the Omani port of Salalah, Defender met up with the Republic of Korea warship before heading out into ‘pirate alley’ between the Arabian Peninsula and Horn of Africa, where warships patrol and merchant ships are guided down an invisible, protected highway.
In accordance with Royal Naval tradition, Commander Phil Nash, Defender’s Commanding Officer, invited his Korean counterpart, Capt Kim Jeong-Hyun, aboard to demonstrate what a Type 45 destroyer can do with its many sensors and weapons, and to discuss the challenges of safeguarding one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world – there are typically 3,000 vessels at sea in the area on any one day.
In preparation for the mission east of Suez, Defender’s Lynx helicopter and Royal Marines and Royal Navy boarding teams have been honing their skills, practising rapid roping (abseiling from a helicopter), searches and winching, while the gunnery teams have been ensuring their marksmanship is top grade courtesy of regular target practice.
HMS Defender will remain in the Gulf as part of her planned operational deployment to conduct maritime security in support of the UK’s Operation Kipion in the Middle East.
Press Release, July 11, 2014; Image: UK Navy