HMS Ocean has come home from deployment a day early as her career in the Royal Navy comes to an end.
HMS Ocean is the UK’s only helicopter carrier and the fleet flagship of the Royal Navy. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force.
The amphibious warfare commando helicopter carrier ends her career with the Royal Navy on a very busy note having left Plymouth at the end of August as the flag ship of a NATO Maritime Group on security duties in the Mediterranean region protecting the international shipping routes critical to UK trade.
The ship was re-tasked and diverted from her NATO duties at the beginning of September to take vital humanitarian aid to British Overseas Territories hit by Hurricane Irma before returning to resume her role as the NATO Group flagship and take part in multi-national exercises.
On board during her deployment were Royal Marines from Taunton-based 40 Commando, helicopters from 820, 845 and 847 Royal Naval Air Squadron based in Culdrose and Yeovilton and RAF Chinook helicopters. The crew will depart on Christmas leave after leaving the ship.
HMS Ocean is due to end her career with the Royal Navy early next year when she will enter Devonport for the final time under the White Ensign to be officially paid off.
What’s next for the helicopter carrier?
We broke the news in March that Brazil was interested in helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, this has now been confirmed by the Brazilian government.
Then in April, we reported that the Brazilian Navy had reportedly sent a proposal to pay for helicopter carrier HMS Ocean in instalments.
According to Brazilian journalist Roberto Lopes in an e-mail to us, the ship’s cost to the Brazilian Navy is fixed at £80.3 million pounds (312 million of Brazilian Reais). Commander of the Brazilian Navy, Admiral Eduardo Leal Ferreira, claimed that the price of Ocean seemed “convenient”.
Then this week, IHS Janes reported that Brazil’s MoD authorised efforts to purchase Ocean once she leaves UK service.
We understand from Roberto Lopes via e-mail, the source who let us know that Brazil has already submitted a payment plan for the vessel, that the officers involved in the ship acquisition process are optimistic and are already discussing details beyond the technical and financial assessments that have been made, such as the name of the ship.
“Minas Gerais is the strongest designation at the time. Rio de Janeiro was ‘saved’ for the future aircraft carrier. However, nothing definite. Only with the execution of the acquisition is that defined.”
According to someone we spoke to earlier in the year currently on-board the vessel, there were rumours that this is one of a number of possibilities:
“People have been talking about what will happen to the ship after 2018, there were rumours that the vessel might be sold to another navy but there’s been no mention of what navy that might be.”
The helicopter carrier was constructed in the mid-1990s and commissioned in September 1998. In November 2015, the MoD confirmed that HMS Ocean is to be decommissioned in 2018 with no like-for-like replacement.
This comes as the Brazilian Navy have decided to abandon the refit of the aircraft carrier Sao Paulo and decommission the vessel after a series of technical issues and accidents. Rectification costs are understood to be a major factor in this decision.
The Sao Paulo is a Clemenceau class aircraft carrier commissioned in 1963 by the French Navy as Foch and was transferred in 2000 to Brazil, where she became the new flagship of the Brazilian Navy. The earlier intention of the navy was that the vessel would continue in active service until 2039, at which time the vessel would be nearly 80 years old. IHS Janes reported that during its career with the Brazilian Navy, São Paulo has suffered from ‘serviceability issues and has never managed to operate for more than three months at a time without the need for repairs and maintenance’. It is no surprise therefore that the navy have now announced, as reported by DefesaNet, that the ship will be ‘demobilised and subsequently decommissioned’.