HMS Ocean (L12)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Ocean.
Apache Helicopter Takes off from HMS Ocean During Operation Ellamy MOD 45153052.jpg
Career (UK)
Name: HMS Ocean
Operator: Royal Navy
Ordered: 11 May 1993
Builder: Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd, Kværner (Govan)
Laid down: 30 May 1994
Launched: 11 October 1995
Sponsored by: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Commissioned: 30 September 1998
Homeport: HMNB Devonport, Plymouth
Motto: "Boldly Faithfully Happily"
Nickname: "The Mighty O"
Honours and
awards:
Al Faw 2003
Status: In active service as of 2014.
Badge: HMS Ocean.gif
General characteristics
Class & type: Amphibious assault ship
Displacement: 21,500 t (21,200 long tons; 23,700 short tons)[1]
Length: 203.4 m (667 ft)[2]
Beam: 35 m (115 ft)[2]
Draught: 6.5 m (21 ft)[2]
Propulsion:
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h) cruise
18 knots (33 km/h) max[3]
Range: 8,000 miles
Boats & landing
craft carried:
Capacity: 40 vehicles[2]
Troops: 830 Royal Marines[2]
Crew: 285 + 180 FAA/RAF[2]
Sensors and
processing systems:
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
UAT Electronic Support Measures
Armament:
Aircraft carried:

Up-to 18 helicopters:

Aviation facilities:
  • Large flight deck
  • Hangar deck
  • Helicopter lifts

HMS Ocean is a Royal Navy amphibious assault ship (or landing platform helicopter) and is the sole member of her class. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force. She was constructed in the mid-1990s by Kvaerner Govan Ltd on the Clyde and fitted out by VSEL at Barrow-in-Furness prior to first of class trials and subsequent acceptance in service. She was commissioned in September 1998 at her home port HMNB Devonport, Plymouth.

Background[edit]

An invitation to tender for a new helicopter carrier was issued in February 1992.[4] In February 1993 The Times reported that the carrier faced cancellation due to budgetary constraints.[5] However, at approximately the same time, British forces were engaged in operations in the Balkans, which saw the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's aviation training ship RFA Argus pressed into service as an Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH). Argus proved totally unsuitable in terms of accommodation and facilities needed for a large Embarked Military Force (EMF), which emphasised the need for a purpose built platform.[3] On 29 March 1993, the defence procurement minister announced that development of the new LPH was proceeding.[6] Two shipbuilders competed for the contract – Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (VSEL) and Swan Hunter. On 11 May 1993, the government announced that VSEL had won the contract.[7] The build was to commercial standards, reducing costs significantly and leading to a construction spend of £154 million (£274 million in 2014),[8], comparable to that of a Type 23 frigate. VSEL, a warship manufacturer, sub-contracted the build phase to the commercial Kværner yard in Govan, Glasgow.

The fact that VSEL's bid was £71 million lower than Swan Hunter's was the source of political controversy and led to a National Audit Office investigation to determine whether the competition was fair. The report, published on 29 July 1993, stated that, although VSEL did subsidise its bid, the MoD was right to award the contract to VSEL because the subsidy was much smaller than the difference between the two bids; VSEL's bid was £139.5 million compared to Swan Hunter's £210.6 million. The Times also suggested that the subsidy was as little as £10 million.[9] In anticipation of the report, the Financial Times described the different philosophies adopted by the two bidders; while Swan Hunter viewed the ships as entirely military, "VSEL thought the design was basically a merchant ship with military hardware bolted on." VSEL's decision to sub-contract the build phase took advantage of lower overheads at a civilian yard as well as efficiency drives by its parent, Kværner.[10] The cut-price build to commercial standards means that Ocean has a projected operational life of just 20 years,[3] significantly less than that of other warships.

Launched on 11 October 1995, she was subsequently named at Barrow by Her Majesty the Queen on 20 February 1998, prior to delivery to Devonport. In her sea trial, she managed to reach a top speed of 20.6 knots (38.2 km/h; 23.7 mph), however her usual top speed is 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph) now totally fitted out and with the addition of new equipment.[11]

Role[edit]

Ocean was designed to provide the amphibious assault capabilities last offered by Albion and Bulwark whilst in the Commando role. She can deploy an Embarked Military Force (EMF) of a Royal Marines Commando Group from 3 Commando Brigade supported by aviation and landing craft assets. The ship's company includes 9 Assault Squadron from 1 Assault Group Royal Marines. HMS Ocean is also capable of limited anti-submarine warfare activities, supporting afloat training and acting as a base facility for other embarked forces including counter-terrorism units.

The air group of up to six Sea King HC4 medium-lift helicopters and six Lynx AH7 light-lift/anti-tank helicopters are provided by the Commando Helicopter Force, four-six Apache AH1 operated by the Army Air Corps and helicopters of the Royal Air Force, including the Chinook. Prior to their retirement, Ocean could transport up to 15 fixed wing Harrier[12] aircraft of Joint Force Harrier in the ferry role, but was unable to operate as a fixed wing aircraft carrier due to her lack of the 'ski jump' that is needed to launch a fully loaded Harrier.

For the 2012 London Olympics, she carried an air arm of eight Army Air Corps and Fleet Air Arm Super Lynx helicopters, four from each service, to deploy special forces and conduct other missions in relation to her security role.[13]

Four Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVPs) are permanently embarked and manned by 9 Assault Squadron Royal Marines.[14]

Operational history[edit]

US Marines ride the forward aircraft lift into Ocean's hangar deck during an exercise in 1999.

Just weeks after being commissioned, Ocean was undertaking the warm water element of her first-of-class trials, when she was deployed on short notice to the coasts of Honduras and Nicaragua to provide humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch.[15] In early 1999, Ocean was scheduled to take part in an exercise in the Atlantic, but was diverted to the Mediterranean in readiness for possible deployment to Kosovo.[16]

During 2000, Ocean supported Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone, joining Illustrious in aiding the suppression of rebel activity with her own EMF and providing support facilities for the Spearhead battalion ashore.[17]

On 17 February 2002, a unit of Royal Marines from Ocean accidentally landed on the San Felipe beach in the Spanish town of La Linea instead of Gibraltar, causing a minor diplomatic incident as various media outlets labelled the mistake as an "invasion".[18]

Ocean was part of a large Royal Navy task force deployed for Operation Telic, the UK contribution to the 2003 Iraq War, for which she was awarded a new battle honour "Al Faw 2003".[19] In the helicopter assault role she was accompanied by Ark Royal.

HMS Ocean showing landing craft on davits and stern ramp deployed

In the summer of 2006, she was deployed as part of the task force involved in the Aurora exercises on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

In 2007, Ocean began her first long refit period. This was carried out by Devonport Management Limited at their Devonport Royal Dockyard facility and lasted around 12 months, during which period Ark Royal took over the LPH role. Ocean sailed from Plymouth on Wednesday 24 September 2008 to start sea trials, following this major period of maintenance and upgrading work.[20] As part of that upgrade, a PyTEC pyrolysising waste recycling unit was fitted.[21]

On 18 February 2009, Ocean sailed from Devonport as part of the Taurus 09 deployment under Commander UK Amphibious Task Group, Commodore Peter Hudson. She was joined on this deployment by the landing platform dock Bulwark, as Hudson's flagship, Type 23 Frigates Argyll and Somerset and four ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.[22] This exercise was filmed for the second series of the Channel 5 documentary Warship.

In June 2009, she took part in exercise Bersama Shield with Somerset and RFA Wave Ruler off the Malay Peninsula.[23]

During the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, Prime Minister Gordon Brown assigned Ocean and other units to rescue stranded travellers and army personnel across the English Channel in Operation Cunningham.[24]

In 2010, she was deployed on a multi-purpose deployment. This started with exercise Auriga on the eastern coast of the USA.[25] She then moved to Brazil to conduct an exercise with the Brazilian marines, whilst there a defence co-operation agreement was signed on board.[26] She then crossed the Atlantic heading for Nigeria to both participate in the Nigeria at 50 presidential fleet review and capacity building with the Nigerian navy as part of the African partnership programme.[27][28] She returned to Devonport in November.[29]

In April 2011, she was deployed as the follow on ship for the RN's Response Force Task Group (RFTG) COUGAR 11 deployment. During this deployment, she took part in Exercise Cypriot Lion[30]

In May 2011, she was detached from the COUGAR 11 deployment of the Response Force Task Group and sent with embarked Apaches to aid operations in Libya along with the attack helicopters aboard the French amphibious assault ship Tonnerre.[31][32][33] This marks the first time that Apache helicopters have been sent into action from a Royal Navy ship.[34] Her initial complement of three Apaches was bolstered by a fourth soon after,[35] and later a fifth.[36] The deployment included a large medical team, a sign of the ship's flexibility.[37]

On 4 May 2012, she moored at Greenwich to prepare for her role of providing logistics support, accommodation and a helicopter landing site during the London 2012 Olympic Games.[38] From 24 to 28 May 2012, she visited Sunderland, her affiliated port, and made other port calls[39] before returning to London on 13 July.[40] After Olympic duty, Ocean returned to her home port of HMNB Devonport for a scheduled period of maintenance.[41] The LPH role was provided by HMS Illustrious until 2014. On 22 July 2014, HMS Ocean took over the helicopter carrier role again, after its 15-month, 65 million Pound refit, replacing HMS Illustrious, which then returned to its home port Portsmouth for a final time, being decommissioning on 28 August 2014.

Commanding Officers[edit]

HMS Ocean deployed for the Olympic Games.
  • 1997–1999: Captain Robert Turner RN
  • 1999–2001: Captain Scott Lidbetter RN
  • 2001–2003: Captain Adrian Johns RN
  • 2003–2004: Captain Christopher Clayton RN
  • 2004–2005: Captain Anthony Johnstone-Burt RN
  • 2005–2006: Captain Christopher Snow RN
  • 2006–2008: Captain Russell Harding RN
  • 2008–2010: Captain Simon Kings RN
  • 2010–2011: Captain Keith Blount RN
  • 2011–2013: Captain Andrew Betton RN
  • 2013: Commander Paul Pitcher RN (Refit Commanding Officer)
  • 2013: Commander Tim Geary RN (Senior Naval Officer*)
  • 2013: Commander Tony Rackham RN (Refit Commanding Officer)
  • 2013– present: Captain Timothy Henry RN

* The Senior Naval Officer is an engineering officer responsible for overseeing the ship's refit period

Affiliations[edit]

HMS Ocean (centre right) in a five-country multinational fleet, during Operation Enduring Freedom in the Oman Sea.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "HMS Ocean". Royal Navy. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f The Royal Navy Handbook, 2003, Ministry of Defence, page 92
  3. ^ a b c "HMS Ocean". navy-matters.beedall.com. 7 May 2001. Retrieved 7 October 2008. 
  4. ^ Fairhill, David (14 February 1992). "£500 million to be spent on new assault vessels". The Times (Times Newspapers). p. 15. 
  5. ^ Evans, Michael (3 February 1993). "Spending axe falls on £170m carrier". The Times (Times Newspapers). 
  6. ^ White, David; Tighe, Chris (30 March 1993). "MoD revives £170m helicopter carrier plan". Financial Times. p. 15. 
  7. ^ Duce, Richard (12 May 1993). "Barrow ship order dismays Tyneside". The Times (Times Newspapers). 
  8. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2014), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  9. ^ Tighe, Chris; Green, Daniel (30 June 1993). "VSEL subsidised Navy ship bid". The Times (Times Newspapers). p. 7. 
  10. ^ Green, Daniel (21 July 1993). "Strategy to win a sea battle: How a civilian shipyard helped VSEL cut costs and gain a Royal Navy order". Financial Times. 
  11. ^ "cyberpioneer – Weapon – Ruling over the oceans (Dec 07)". Mindef.gov.sg. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  12. ^ "UK's first helicopter attack ship sets sail" (in English). BBC. 30 September 1998. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  13. ^ Williams, Rob (4 May 2012). "Near miss as HMS Ocean squeezes through Thames Barrier". The Independent (London). 
  14. ^ HMS Ocean – 9 assault squadron, royalnavy.mod.uk[dead link]
  15. ^ "UK Navy saves Nicaraguans". BBC. 11 November 1998. 
  16. ^ "UK Navy's biggest ship prepares for action". BBC. 2 May 1999. 
  17. ^ A Short History of the Royal Air Force: Chapter 6 – Return to Expeditionary Warfare. raf.mod.uk. p. 307. 
  18. ^ "Tell it to the marines... we've invaded the wrong country". The Guardian. 19 February 2002. 
  19. ^ "9 June 2005". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Lords). 
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ Palmer, Jason (5 October 2009). "Energy from waste powers US army". BBC. Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  22. ^ Royal Navy Website
  23. ^ [2][dead link]
  24. ^ "European Countries Agree to Resume Air Traffic". Fox News. 19 April 2010. 
  25. ^ HMS Ocean Heads Across The Pond As Part Of The Auriga Task Group, 10 June 2010 archived from the origional
  26. ^ HMS Ocean departs Rio de Janeiro after successful diplomatic visit, 23 September 2010 archived from the origional
  27. ^ HMS Ocean Engages in Capacity Building with the Nigerian Navy, naveur-navaf.navy.mil
  28. ^ [3][dead link]
  29. ^ "HMS Ocean welcomed home after world wide deployment". MOD. 1 November 2010. 
  30. ^ Cougar 11, royal-navy.mod.uk (archive)
  31. ^ "Apaches get ready to help protect Libyan civilians – News – Inside Government – GOV.UK". Mod.uk. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  32. ^ "NATO Uses Attack Helicopters for First Time in Libya". Fox News. 4 June 2011. 
  33. ^ "HMS Ocean returns home". MOD. 12 December 2011. 
  34. ^ [4][dead link]
  35. ^ McElroy, Damien; Kirkup, James; Harding, Thomas (23 May 2011). "Libya: British attack helicopters to be deployed". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  36. ^ "LIBYA: British Army details Apache's success". Flightglobal.com. 8 July 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  37. ^ "HMS Ocean's medical team supports Apache crews flying over Libya". www.gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. 5 August 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  38. ^ "Military support to 2012 Olympic Games announced – News – Inside Government – GOV.UK". Mod.uk. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  39. ^ "HMS Ocean visits her affiliated city of Sunderland this weekend". Royal Navy. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  40. ^ "HMS Ocean in London for Olympics". BBC News. 13 July 2012. 
  41. ^ "HMS Ocean". Royal Navy. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 

External links[edit]