Britain’s Sandown-Class Minehunter Shows off in Gulf


Three of Britain’s quartet of minehunters joined in the US-UK minehunting workout (Ramsey on the left, Pembroke on the right and, out of shot, HMS Quorn) while the Americans committed aircraft from their specialist Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron HM15 plus Avenger-class minehunter USS Gladiator – like the RN vessels a seemingly constant presence in the Gulf.

The American naval forces come under the banner of the US Fifth Fleet which directs operations from an impressive modern headquarters in Bahrain…

…which is also home to the senior Royal Navy HQ in the region, the UK Maritime Component Command, responsible for directing the operations of the dozen-plus RN and RFA vessels spread across some 2½ million square miles of ocean east of Suez.

Some of the UKMCC team left their desks behind for a day and joined Pembroke for a demonstration day to see what the small Sandown-class warship can do.

Pembroke was shepherded out of harbour in Bahrain by US security boats who provide protection for this vital hub of naval operations in the Gulf.

With the American boats still in company with Pembroke, demonstrations were already underway onboard the vessel courtesy of a fire-fighting exercise.

Fire dealt with by the damage control team, the ship made her way to the exercise area where a dummy mine was laid…

…and promptly found by the ship’s Sonar 2093.

Actually, the sonar can only locate a contact – it doesn’t identify it; for that you need a mini remote-controlled submersible vehicle fitted with a TV camera… or you can send divers over the side.

Pembroke chose the former and launched her small red Seafox system. Steered from the Sandown-class ship’s operations room it first finds the contact by sonar, then its camera, and, if necessary, disposes of the target by attaching a small warhead.

Once back on the surface, Seafox was placed in the hands of the visitors who had a go at steering the small underwater vehicle back to the ship.

The guests also got their hands on another joystick, this time driving Pembroke herself after the bridge team had shown just how manoeuvrable the warship is thanks to her unique Voith Schneider propulsion system which means she can spin on the spot if required.

With the minehunter back in the hands of the ship’s company she was guided safely back to Bahrain.

Next stop Abu Dhabi and an unexpected visitor. Pembroke was taking a break from minehunting training in the Gulf with a few days in the UAE metropolis.

The stop-off coincided with a visit to the region by Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt, who’s responsible for North Africa and the Middle East.

A change to the MP’s programme afforded him the chance to visit Pembroke and learn about the RN’s work in the region, accompanied by a journalist from The National, Abu Dhabi’s English-language newspaper.

Source: royalnavy, September 14, 2011;