UK: Royal Navy Minehunters Shrug off Storms to Continue Gulf Mission

Royal Navy Minehunters Shrug off Storms to Continue Gulf Mission

Royal Navy minehunters based in the Gulf have shrugged off spring storms to continue their Middle East mission. Recent exercises and training carried out by HMS Ramsey and Middleton, plus their support ship RFA Lyme Bay, have been hit by the shamal wind which brings sandstorms and rough seas to the region

While it’s in the high 20s Celsius (over 80 Fahrenheit), some of the four-strong force operating out of Bahrain have been buffeted by the shamal as they carry out their long-standing mission.

The shamal is a seasonal wind which blows across Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, bringing with it sand and dust. At worst, wind+sand = sandstorm; at best, the high levels of dust in the air can severely reduce visibility, putting great strain on bridge teams. And it also means the sea is rather lumpy.

As HMS Ramsey found when she sailed in company with the minehunters’ depot ship RFA Lyme Bay for a two-week exercise.

Despite what were described as “gale force winds” by the ship’s company sideswiped some sailors, but the mine warfare training went on.

When the storm abated the Sandown-class warship, normally based in Faslane but deployed to Bahrain for around three years as part of the Navy’s long-term commitment to the region, struck out in the Gulf once more with Lyme Bay and also HMS Middleton (more from her below) for group weapon training and maritime security operations – this time the weather, we’re told, was “difficult”.

The exercising ended with a visit to the port of Shuiaba in Kuwait (two dozen miles south of Kuwait City) for National Day celebrations. The 250-mile passage back to base in Bahrain saw Ramsey run into yet another shamal.

“No matter how much the high winds and rough seas tested Ramsey, it didn’t compare with the trial of the Abu Dhabi international triathlon in which over a quarter of the ship’s company took part,” said the ship’s navigator Lt Bridget Macnae.

The race was a three-kilometre swim in the sea (temperature 20˚C), then a 200-kilometre bike ride and 20 kilometre run – or half the distance for the shorter version.

And talking of distance… The ship’s company are now approaching the half-way point in their deployment (crews are rotated through the ships for six/seven-month stints, taking it in turns with the rest of the Sandown fraternity) having taken charge of Ramsey just before Christmas.

Not so the sailors of HMS Middleton, another of the Gulf quartet (HM Ships Pembroke and Quorn complete the foursome) who arrived aboard their ship a month after Ramsey’s crew.

Having got used to the Middle East environment, they put to sea in the Hunt-class ship with seven other mine warfare vessels plus frigates and destroyers operating in the Gulf in a US Navy-led exercise.

“The conditions in the Gulf present some of the most testing in the world for mine counter-measure operations,” said Lt Cdr Steve Higham, Middleton’s Commanding Officer.

“By developing our techniques and procedures across a broad environmental spectrum, we can be sure we’re ready to go anywhere, any time.”

In Shuiaba, the ship’s company got time ashore to explore the small emirate, while there was an opportunity to meet and discuss operations with the British Ambassador to Kuwait and military representatives.

Whilst her crew are relative newcomers to the Gulf, the ship herself is not. Nearly 38 months have elapsed since the ship left Portsmouth; Middleton’s due to make the return journey later this year.

Naval Today Staff , April 04, 2012; Image: navy