Amphibious Assault Warship ‘Ready to Deliver’ as Britain’s Flagship


HMS Bulwark is ready to assume the mantle of the nation’s flagship after completing six months of gruelling training.

The last phase of that training, following a £30m refit, was played out on the shores of Hampshire with an invasion of Browndown Camp near Gosport.

Seen through a night-vision camera lens, a large landing craft leaves HMS Bulwark to carry out a beach landing near Gosport in the dead of night.

The assault ship is ready to assume the mantle of the nation’s flagship after completing more than two months of exacting training – the last hurdle in six months of trials, tribulations and tests following a £30m refit.

That last hurdle was Operational Sea Training – delivered by the world-renowned Flag Officer Sea Training organisation from Devonport.

Given the unique nature of an amphibious ship with its ability to deliver troops and kit from the sea directly to the shore, in addition to all the usual OST tests such as fire, flood, air, sea and submarine attack, and disaster relief, the FOST instructors also assess Bulwark’s sailors and marines on their adeptness at choreographing all the machinery of war from the ship to a beach, before moving inland.

So the last fortnight of the three-phase training period saw assaults staged by air (courtesy of the Jungly Sea Kings of the Commando Helicopter Force) and sea (courtesy of Bulwark’s inherent Royal Marines unit and their landing craft, 4 Assault Squadron) as the ship, bolstered by trainee Royal Marines from the Commando Training Centre at Lympstone, dealt a blow to the dastardly ‘Ginger’ forces at Browndown Camp in Stokes Bay on the Solent.

In doing so they knocked out key targets – a Challenger 2 main battle tank (the largest piece of armour a landing craft can carry) and Royal Marines in Viking armoured vehicles will ruin your day if you’re a bad guy – and helped with the evacuation of civilians eager to escape the war zone.

All of which is pretty challenging to direct, however well equipped the 18,000-tonne assault ship is. Throw some very “particularly inconsiderate weather conditions” into the mix, and you’re testing the 350+ souls aboard Bulwark (plus the FOST staff) to the limit.

The FOSTies are tough taskmasters, but were evidently suitably impressed by Bulwark because she passed her ordeal, much to the delight of her Commanding Officer Capt Alex Burton.

The FOST seal of approval means (a) Bulwark can deploy, if required, and (b) will be relieving her sister HMS Albion as the flagship next month.

“I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved since starting our training, and how hard the ship’s company have worked throughout,”

said Capt Burton.

“We still have plenty of challenges ahead as we prepare to take on the responsibility of the Royal Navy’s flagship – but we are ready to deliver whatever may be required in the future.”

That immediate future includes being the largest (and warriest) attraction at Southampton Boat Show between September 22 and 25.

From there the ship sails to Brest in Brittany to pick up around 100 French Marines before heading north to the Clyde to take part in the second of this year’s Joint Warrior exercises, a combined air-sea-land war game run from Faslane.

Source: royalnavy, September 16, 2011;