New UK minehunter duo starts three-year Bahrain stint

Two Royal Navy mine countermeasure vessels arrived in Oman recently to relieve two of their counterparts who spent the last three years forward-deployed to Bahrain.

Returning home to the UK are HMS Penzance (bound for Faslane) and HMS Chiddingfold (Portsmouth) after completing their three-year stints in the Gulf.

Assuming their places in Bahrain are Sandown-class minehunter HMS Blyth and the oldest of eight Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels HMS Ledbury.

“The Royal Navy has a fantastic reputation as one of the best at mine detection and mine clearance,” said Lieutenant Commander Jim Lovell, Penzance’s Commanding Officer.

“After 1,105 days with providing that capability to the region with Chiddingfold, we’ve handed the baton on to our sister ships Ledbury and Blyth, who will continue to underpin the UK’s wellbeing with their very capable mine hunters.”

The RN’s minehunting force in the Gulf comprises a battle staff, command ship (currently RFA Cardigan Bay), two Sandown-class ships for locating mines in deep water (Bangor and now Blyth) and two Hunts which specialize in shallower waters (Middleton and now Ledbury).

Penzance has spent over 7,500 hours at sea – 44 weeks – and steamed in excess of 34,000 miles during her time in the Middle East, taking part in numerous mine warfare exercises with US, French and regional navies and visited 12 nations to foster strong ties between them and the UK.

Ready to pick up where she left off is Blyth, whose Commanding Officer Lt Cdr Peter Ware said his sailors had gone through “extensive preparations and training ready to commence mine counter measures operations in the Gulf.

“It is often quoted that nearly 40% of the world’s energy flows through the important sea lanes of this region, which demonstrates the continuing importance of Royal Navy mine hunters in the Gulf.”

Penzance and Chiddingfold are expected to return to the UK in autumn.