HMS Bulwark Starts Five Weeks of Intensive Training
The nation’s flagship HMS Bulwark yesterday began five weeks of intensive training which will test every nut and bolt of the 18,000-tonne assault ship – and the 350 men and women aboard her. A team of 100 expert Royal Navy inspectors and assessors are joining the ship in Devonport to make sure Bulwark is ready for all eventualities as the UK’s on-call assault ship.
Fresh from her starring role in action-packed demonstrations for future military leaders and a farewell sail-past by Britain’s most senior sailor, the nation’s flagship today begins five weeks of rigorous training and inspection to ensure she’s ready for anything the world can throw at her.
Nearly 100 inspectors and assessors – a mixture of hugely-experienced officers and senior ratings – have joined HMS Bulwark to put her ship’s company through their paces over the next month off Plymouth.
After leading the RN’s keynote deployment of 2012, Cougar, to the Mediterranean in the autumn, the amphibious assault ship has enjoyed a winter break, undergoing a spot of maintenance in her home port.
She awoke from her wintry slumber a few weeks ago to shake off the cobwebs and hone skills such as flight deck operations, gunnery and running landing craft in and out of Bulwark’s ‘party piece’, her cavernous loading dock.
Last week she lead Staff College Sea Days – the annual ‘taster’ given by the Royal Navy to officers in its sister Services as well as international military students going through the staff college at Shrivenham – and showed her respects to the outgoing First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, as he conducted a sail-past in Plymouth Sound.
Now, however, comes the acid test as the exacting team from the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation, based like Bulwark in Devonport, inspect every aspect of the ship and ship’s company.
They’re giving the flagship what’s known as Directed Continuation Training, which is training unique to the ship and her mission – in Bulwark’s case the ability to put more than 700 Royal Marines with all their kit ashore… and bring them back again if required.
In addition to testing the flagship’s amphibious capability, the FOST staff will also test and assess every aspect of the ship’s fighting ability: warfare against surface, submarine and air attack, the ability to command a task group, disaster relief missions and large-scale evacuation of civilians such as the Royal Navy has conducted in the Lebanon and Libya in recent years.
“Although the ship has recently completed a period alongside, the ship’s company have been working hard to maintain and prepare the equipment of this complex warship,” said Bulwark’s Commanding Officer, Capt Andrew Burns.
“They are now keen to demonstrate their professional skills in every facet of their work, including warfighting operations.
“This period of training is critical in maintaining our readiness to deploy for any tasking that the Government may require of us and we are looking forward to the challenges that it will provide.”
Once the training is completed, his ship will be on call to respond to global events as the flagship of the UK’s Response Force Task Group.
Naval Today Staff, February 19, 2013; Image: Royal Navy