UK: HMS Bulwark Undergoes Thorough Workout

THE waters of the English Channel fall away from a Viking as a Royal Marine drives the armoured vehicle into the loading bay of HMS Bulwark.

Although the Viking has been in service with the commandos for nearly a decade, this is actually a first: the amphibious assault ship is seeing whether it’s possible to launch a Viking directly into the water, without the need to transport it by landing craft.

Typically, one of Bulwark’s Landing Craft (Utility) or smaller Landing Craft (Vehicle and Personnel) would be used to convey Vikings ashore, depositing them either directly on to the beach, or a few metres away so the vehicles could roll up the beach and through the surf.

As Vikings – which are based with the RM Armoured Support Group at RNAS Yeovilton – are fully amphibious, the Corps is now proving the ability to drive the vehicle straight out of the well dock (the stern section of the assault ship which can ‘floods up’ for the landing craft), into the sea and ashore.

The Viking trials have come in the middle of Bulwark’s Basic Operational Sea Training – a two-month workout which tests the ability of every member of the ship’s company to deal with pretty much every eventuality: fire, flood, breakdowns, attack by air and sea.

Given the size of Bulwark and the amphibious nature of her mission, there’s a sizeable presence from the exacting assessors of the Flag Officer Sea Training on board – upwards of 90 souls for some of the most demanding serials and trials.

For Bulwark, BOST – which some ships liken to ‘pre-season training’, preparing a warship and crew for an impending tour of duty – is split into two stages: basic tests such as the ability to handle the ship and deal with problems on board first, then things ‘ramp up’ into full-scale amphibious drills and exercises with the sailors and marines expected to perform exactly as they would in wartime.

Already completed have been a whole ship’s company tow, with sailors and commandos lining up on the flight deck to manually haul a vessel in distress using a hefty piece of rope; chaff firings to test Bulwark’s ability to fend off missile attack; some assaults from fast attack craft to test the responses of upper deck gun crew; plenty of Sea King action on the flight deck; and a very thorough workout for the ship’s laundry.

Ship’s laundry? Well, the latter was tested when a whole bunch of trainee Royal Marine commandos rocked up.
The rookie Royals had just endured four days of forced marches and exercises on Dartmoor and joined Bulwark for Operation Dryout – a chance for a hot shower, top grub, and some clean clothes… which meant a busy night in the laundry.

Refreshed and with sparkling dry attire, the trainees from Commando Training Centre RM at Lympstone disembarked the next day by landing craft…

…which stopped a good 50 metres from the Devonshire coast, which meant a wade ashore and those dry uniforms wet once again.

Once BOST is completed the ship will take over duties as Britain’s flagship from her sister HMS Albion in October.


Source: royalnavy, August 10, 2011;