Royal Navy’s oldest warship prepares for marathon deployment

Despite being the oldest operational ship in the Royal Navy with 36 years of service, minehunter HMS Ledbury is preparing to embark on a three-year deployment to the Persian Gulf.

To prove she and her 45-strong ship’s company are ready for the 7,300-mile sea journey from Portsmouth to Bahrain, home of the five-strong Gulf mine force (four minehunters, one RFA mother/command ship), Ledbury is enduring several weeks of Operational Sea Training – culminating in a fortnight-long international exercise which begins this weekend.

Big ships are put through their paces off Plymouth. Fishery protection, survey ships and minehunters head for western Scotland for their assessments – described by some as akin to ‘pre-season training’ for footballs.

Ledbury’s crew of 45 dealt with simulated fires, floods, casualties, enemy vessels and even the salvage of a distressed ship. Real aircraft and surface craft were used to simulate threats and practise the ship’s reactions.

“I’m immensely proud of my team, who have consistently proved themselves over a sustained period of high tempo Operational Sea Training,” said Lt Cdr Harkin.

“This year we are away from our families for eight months, but the ship’s contribution to UK defence, economic security and wider geopolitical stability is considerable. My ship’s company and their families can be very proud of what they do.”

This weekend Ledbury weighs in to Joint Warrior, the twice-yearly air-sea-land war games waged largely in and off western Scotland which draws in not just the core of the UK’s Armed Forces, but ships, aircraft and personnel from numerous Allied nations.

The Hunt-class ship is due to sail for the Gulf later this year with her sister Chiddingfold making the journey in the opposite direction ahead of a major refit in Portsmouth.

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