Royal Navy assault ship HMS Albion has completed her first set of sea trials, spending four weeks in open waters after being tied to port for six years.
After a £90m revamp in her home base which took her out of mothballs and saw 110 major changes and improvements carried out, the assault ship left Devonport for four weeks of sea trials.
Once a team of assessors from the Flag Officer Sea Training determined the 350-plus crew of sailors and marines were fit to deal with general fires, floods and casualties, as well as more specialist scenarios such as a aircraft crash on deck or blaze in the main engine room, Albion was allowed to begin her trials in earnest.
In addition to the ship’s company, an 130 extra men and women have been aboard for the trials: Babcock engineers/electricians/welders/carpenters/fitters for the first fortnight; and throughout combat system engineers, BAE service engineers, MCTA, FOST, aviation fuel specialists, General Electric, L3 platform management system engineers and affiliates.
In clear sight of Plymouth Breakwater, the ship took on 2,500 tonnes of sea water to ‘ballast down’, then opened her stern gate and flooded her loading dock with 1,500 tonnes of water for landing craft to operate.
Albion carries a permanent Royal Marines detachment in charge of two large landing craft (they can carry Challenger tanks), and four smaller variants for troops and vehicles.
With the dock successfully flooded, four of the landing craft with commandos embarked headed off for a two-week-long independent exercise assaulting beaches, conducting beach reconnaissance and basic weapon drills up to some live firing on the ranges.
On board, the crew also knuckled down to shooting, firing the 20mm cannon, all the machine and Miniguns, as well as the saluting guns.
To sustain Albion at sea for four weeks, she performed her first refuelling on the go (aka replenishment at sea, or RAS) in six years, taking fuel from tanker RFA Wave Ruler in the English Channel.
Many of the trials are new to the assault ship’s class – Artisan 3D radar, Phalanx Gatling gun, electronic warfare systems and a new brain for the operations room, the DNA2 command system which meshes the data from Albion’s many sensors and converts it into displays and information which the crew can interpret.
Now back in Devonport, the crew are preparing Albion for her rededication on Friday when the Princess Royal will be guest of honour, 16 years after she launched the ship at BAE’s Barrow yard.