UK: HMS Liverpool Returns to Portsmouth After 7 Months

HMS Liverpool Returns to Portsmouth After 7 Months

If you want to cheer home the British warship synonymous with the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, then be on Portsmouth’s historic waterfront from 9.30am on Monday to thank the men and women of HMS Liverpool.

No British warship has spent longer on Operation Unified Protector, the NATO mission to protect the people of Libya and strangle the military machine of Colonel Gaddafi​.

Liverpool was dispatched initially to help enforce UN Security Council Resolutions, enforcing an arms embargo and assisting the No-Fly Zone imposed over Libyan skies.

But in her more than seven months away, the ship was fired upon more than half a dozen times by shore batteries – the first time a British warship has been deliberately targeted since the Falklands War​.

In response her main 4.5in gun fired 211 rounds of star or high explosive shells either to light up hostile positions for NATO jets to neutralise – or to take them out herself.

Much of the Type 42 destroyer’s time was spent off Misrata – the ship’s company witnessed both the siege and its subsequent lifting. They also saw the fall of Zlitan, Al Khums, the capital Tripoli and finally Sirte to anti-Gaddafi forces.

In all the 31-year-old destroyer and the 250 souls aboard spent 81 hours at Action Stations on 28 separate occasions.

Quite simply, says Liverpool’s proud Commanding Officer Cdr Colin Williams, the ship has been “at the sharp end of Royal Navy operations for the past seven months.”

He continues:

“We became the first ship to be fired on in 30 years and my ship’s company responded by putting their training into action, returning fire in self-defence and destroying enemy positions ashore.

“In their efforts to protect the Libyan people and enforce the will of the United Nations, the ship’s company have proved their grit and determination.

“I know that our families and well-wishers will be as proud of them as I am – and we arrive home as a ship at the top of her game.”

For 360 hours of her deployment – that’s 15 whole days – two fighter controllers in the ship’s operations room, Lts Grahame Flint and Nicolas Lesbats, directed aircraft from 14 nations including remote-controlled drones, helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft, strike jets and tankers.

And on 13 occasions the duo were responsible for controlling air power across the entire No-Fly Zone.

Lt Lesbats is on exchange from the French Navy – in fact, thanks to his time aboard Liverpool he’s spent more time off Libya than any other French sailor.

He was originally due to join HMS Diamond, but with Liverpool dispatched to Libya, she required a second fighter controller for the very demanding NATO mission.

“Controlling aircraft is an intense process that requires maximum concentration over long hours.

“It’s not like civilian air traffic control. You combine air safety with operational objectives.

“Directing the tanker aircraft was particularly time consuming – if you get it wrong, the opportunity to refuel is lost, aircraft have to be directed and the mission abandoned. It’s a huge responsibility.”

explains Lt Lesbats.

The two fighter controllers achieved the equivalent of 20 years’ experience under normal circumstances off Libya, but for the Frenchman just as interesting was being immersed in the world of the RN.

“At first it took me a little while to get used to the differences in route, but it soon became second nature,”

says Lt Lesbats.

“I’ve even started having sausage and eggs for breakfast and I must drink ten to 15 cups of tea a day. I think when I return to France, my friends and family will be astonished.”

The Frenchman adds:

“I’ve become very close to the ship’s company – I now feel half British in my heart and was particularly proud when the junior rates told me I was one of them.

“It’s traditional for there to be a rivalry between our two countries, but I’ve observed that a lot of English people are actually Francophile. They like to go to France on holiday or drink French wine and they like the French people they meet.

“As for the British and French Navies, their professionalism and expertise mark them out as among the best in the world. The closer I get to the Royal Navy, the more I believe co-operation is a better idea.”

Source: royalnavy, November 04, 2011