Royal Navy’s current flagship, HMS Ocean, wrapped up an eventful six-month deployment to the Middle East and returned to HMNB Devonport, Plymouth on March 24.
During her deployment, HMS Ocean became the first UK warship to lead the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s Task Force (CTF) 50 in the Arabian Gulf, taking command of the group on November 25, 2016.
“It’s a huge honour to bring HMS Ocean home after such an historic and remarkable operational deployment to the Middle East,” Captain Rob Pedre, the ship’s captain, said. “I am particularly proud of how my ship’s company, their committed dedication to duty, professionalism and good humour, have delivered the fleet flagship through a challenging programme and reinforced the reputation of the Royal Navy as a capable, world-class fighting force.’’
As a helicopter assault ship, HMS Ocean, or the Mighty O as she is known, has operated helicopters Merlin Mk2 and Sea King Mk7, Chinooks and Apaches from the Navy, RAF and Army to protect the force from threats above, on and below the waves.
The final confirmation of the RN’s ability to direct aircraft carrier strike operations – looking forward to the new Queen Elizabeth ships joining the Royal Navy fleet – was a three-day exercise in the central Gulf involving four navies, 19 ships and ten helicopters.
“We have pushed the boundaries of what we can operate,” said Capt Pedre. “This deployment will stand us in good stead with the Queen Elizabeth.”
Other highlights of the deployment include the ship hosting prime minister, Theresa May, in Bahrain ahead of her attendance at the Gulf Co-operation Council Conference; engaged in significant amphibious exercises with Albania and supported UK trade through the promotion of UK exports overseas.
During the deployment HMS Ocean has steamed over 23,000 miles, visited 11 countries, and at times been home for up to 1,150 service personnel from the UK and partner nations.
According to the Royal Navy, the personnel will go on leave on arrival before returning to Devonport to prepare for a final visit to their affiliated city of Sunderland which will be followed by a NATO deployment to the Mediterranean later this year.