UK: HMS Iron Duke Hands Over Gulf Duties to St Albans

Ploughing through seas whipped up by the monsoon season, HMS Iron Duke and St Albans perform a traditional sail past in the Indian Ocean as one Portsmouth-based frigate hands over Gulf duties to another.

The two ships – Iron Duck on the left here, the Saint on the right – saluted each other with jets of water, a few banners of ribald encouragement, and quite a few matelots in fancy dress on the outgoing Type 23… including Iron Duke’s own Kate Winslet complete with bright red ‘dress’, ginger hair… and a bit of paunch right at the bow.

This has been Iron Duke’s very first deployment to this part of the world, despite being in service for nearly 20 years; most of her time to date has been spent in the North and South Atlantics.

Her five months in theatre have spanned a rather momentous period – for in addition to events sweeping the North Africa, the Levant and Middle East, the Royal Navy’s Iraq mission has finally concluded after nearly a decade.

It fell to the ship to conduct the last patrol of Iraq’s oil platforms which are both the mainstay of the country’s economy and have been the raison d’être for RN frigate deployments to the Gulf since 2003.

With the Iraq mission done, Operation Telic is no more and a wider duty for the substantial RN presence east of Suez (generally never fewer than ten surface ships, RFA support vessels and normally one submarine) has emerged – Kipion, a combination of the old Operations Telic and Calash, patrols of the Indian Ocean.

The Kipion remit is counter drugs/piracy/smuggling/terrorism, plus working with the sizeable Allied naval force in the region, plus friendly nations.

All of which St Albans is getting used to right now. She’s arrived in the area fresh from a dramatic high seas rescue which saw her Merlin pluck all souls from a stricken tanker in the middle of a monsoon.

She’ll be away from home until the year’s end, while Iron Duke is making godspeed for Portsmouth on her 6,000-mile journey back to the Solent.
Source: royalnavy, July 7, 2011