In the past few years, the mainstream media and assorted critics have taken great delight in reporting how the Royal Navy fleet is “broken down”, “stuck in port” or has somehow been relegated to “a coastal defence force”. A snapshot of the fleet in early February 2018 shows that despite its many problems, the RN currently has vessels deployed in most of the world’s oceans.
The RN may be threadbare by its historical standards but it is worth remembering that only the US, and possibly the Chinese, navy exceed this level of activity. Each vessel and unit deployed represents a very long logistic chain of people conducting planning, training, maintenance etc and there is a complex balancing act involved. The RN leadership attracts criticism from many quarters but the level of impact being achieved, given its severely constrained manpower and funding reflects well on its management. Activity in itself is not the only measurement of naval strength and does not hide serious weaknesses in the fleet, but it does show the RN getting the best from the resources it has. Next time a larger than usual number of ships are alongside for Christmas or Summer leave periods, it would be helpful to remember what the RN is able to deliver for the majority of the time. This photo essay is far from exhaustive but attempts to show some of the activity of the RN in the past 7 days.
INDIAN OCEAN / PACIFIC. HMS Sutherland visited The British Island Territory of Diego Garcia last week, the first stop on her tour of the Pacific region. She is now on her way to Australia. A single warship has limited military significance but her presence is useful for defence diplomacy, reinforcing friendships with our allies and a reminder to adversaries how far the RN can reach.
BLACK SEA. SNMG2 Flagship HMS Duncan prepares to berth ahead of HMS Enterprise in Constanta, Romania. The RN has increased its participation in NATO groups in recent years, this is Duncan’s second spell as SNMG2 flagship in the past 12 months. When relieved by HMS Albion, she will deploy to the Gulf region. Duncan is currently visiting Varna, Bulgaria (Photo: NATO MARCOM)
BLACK SEA. Romanian minesweeper ROS Lt. Lupu Dinescu prepares to raft up with SNMCG2 (Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2) flagship HMS Enterprise. (Photo: NATO MARCOM)
ADRIATIC SEA: HMS Echo visited the Port of Bar, Montenegro, she is currently assigned to the EUNAVFOR operation SOPHIA migration patrols. ( image @defence_mne )
ATLANTIC / MEDITERRANEAN. RFA Wave Knight delivered a large quantity of fuel oil to Gibraltar ahead of the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth. The carrier is not yet ready to conduct replenishment at sea. (Photo: David Sanchez / @86_dmjs)
ATLANTIC / MEDITERRANEAN. HMS Somerset provided escort for HMS Queen Elizabeth when she visited Gibraltar 9th-12th February
MEDITERRANEAN. HMS Albion departs Gibraltar after brief visit to transfer stores and personnel. She is on her way to relieve HMS Duncan as flagship of SNMG 2. (Photo: @hms_albion)
ATLANTIC / MEDITERRANEAN. Although not yet a fully operational warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth attracted much attention as she made her first overseas visit to Gibraltar. The “aircraft carrier with no aircraft” has 6 helicopters on board and has now headed out into the Atlantic for several weeks of flying trials in challenging weather. (Photo: @Robert1969Rob )
NORWAY. Commander Bond RN, CO 845 Naval Air Squadron on the insertion yomp during the Cold Weather Survival Course (CWSC) as part of Ex Nordic Eagle, held around Bardufoss.
NORWAY. Merlin Mk3A of 845 NAS supporting exercise Nordic Eagle.
ATLANTIC. Towed Array sonar frigate HMS Westminster has been operating in the waters around Northern Scotland as the assigned Fleet Ready Escort. Surveillance above and below the waves is a vital task that has to be conducted in all weathers. There are sometimes two or more RN frigates performing this increasingly important role, which is every bit as important as overseas deployments. HMS Montrose has also been deployed in northern waters, visiting Stavanger and using the NATO weapon and sensor range in Norway.
NORTH SEA. HMS Mersey returns to Portsmouth Naval Base on 12th Feb after a successful patrol of UK waters protecting our fish stocks. (image: @CaptainMFP )
BALTIC. HMS Cattistock is serving with NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 and visited Oslo, Norway this weekend.
ARABIAN SEA. RFA Cardigan Bay is permanently deployed in the Gulf region, based in Bahrain and supporting coalition warships including the 4 RN minehunters; currently HMS Blyth, HMS Ledbury, HMS Bangor and HMS Middleton. (Photo @HMSBangor)
ARABIAN SEA. RFA Fort Rosalie conducting a replenishment at sea with USNS Matthew Perry, part of the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group (CSG-9) on operation Inherent Resolve – the fight against ISIS. ASaC Sea Kings from 849 Naval Air Squadron, flying from RFA Fort Rosalie also provide airborne surveillance in the region.
CARRIBEAN SEA. RFA Mounts Bay remains on a long deployment in the Caribbean region, currently visiting Bridgetown, Barbados.
ENGLISH CHANNEL. RFA Tidespring conducts RAS with Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad during Operational Sea Training in the SW exercise areas last week. The 4 Tide-class tankers are at various stages on their way to join the fleet and will give the RN the largest number of support ships possessed by any European navy, by a considerable margin. The strength of the RFA is foundational to the RN’s ability to operate around the globe. (Photo: @matt_bromage)
SOUTH ATLANTIC. HMS Clyde is permanently assigned to the Falkland Islands as guardship.
ANTARCTICA. HMS Protector delivers supplies and equipment to the British Antarctic Survey base at Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula at the end of January. She continues to support the BAS, currently, she is in the Weddell Sea.
At least 2 Astute or Trafalgar class submarines are probably at sea right now
This is the Vanguard class submarine currently on patrol and carrying the nation’s nuclear deterrent.