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Landing ship RFA Mounts Bay is patrolling the Mediterranean to counter illegal arms traffickers, a task usually performed by a frigate or destroyer.

RFA Mounts Bay is a Bay class auxiliary landing ship dock of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

The Bay class is a ship class of dock landing ships built for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary during the 2000s. They are based on the Dutch-Spanish Royal Schelde Enforcer design and intended as a replacement for the Round Table-class logistics ships. They are amphibious landing ships which can offload embarked troops and equipment very well, they are not designed to hunt arms traffickers.

As a sealift ship, each Bay class vessel is capable of carrying up to 24 Challenger 2 tanks or 150 light trucks in 1,150 linear metres of space, with stern- and side-ramp access to the vehicle deck.

The cargo capacity is equivalent of 200 tons of ammunition, or 24 twenty-foot equivalent unit containers. During normal conditions, a Bay-class ship can carry 356 soldiers, but this can be almost doubled to 700 in overload conditions.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship takes over from HMS Diamond, who carried out the role for two months while Mounts Bay underwent planned maintenance, as well as playing a role in a joint maritime exercise Albanian Lion earlier this month.

The Type 45 Destroyer has conducted wide-area maritime surveillance to establish operating patterns in the area and then, when appropriate, boarded vessels suspected of supporting the illegal importation of weapons and ammunition.

This forms part of Operation Sophia, focused on tackling human smugglers and arms traffickers who endanger the lives of migrants who seek to travel to Europe.

Mounts Bay’s role will remain tackling the movement of arms, and she will provide a picture-building capability to help enforce the UN Security Council Resolution prohibiting the trafficking of arms to Libya.

It should be noted Mounts Bay does not have the ability to intercept any vessel.

During her two months in the role, HMS Diamond deployed combined Royal Navy and Royal Marine boarding teams, and her Wildcat helicopter provided critical over watch; the first time the helicopter has been utilised in a live operation from a Type 45.

Commander Marcus Hember, Commanding Officer of HMS Diamond, said:

“Diamond has made an important contribution to the effort in the Mediterranean, showing that the Royal Navy continues to commit to important tasks in support of UK interests.”

The capability offered by Diamond will not be present on her replacement, RFA Mounts Bay.

12 COMMENTS

  1. They really need to start thinking about a real solution to this mess. We have a joint expeditionary force operating without escort vessels and now this. Once the QE class is up and running, they will need constant escorts, making the matter 10x worse.

  2. Agree with Steve.
    The simplest and quickest solution is to construct a few more OPV’s including upgrading the 30mm gun. The monitoring of Arms and Drug traffickers and pirates does not need one of the world’s most sophisticated Destroyers let alone a Frigate.
    For the longer term trying to take a middle line between tight budgets and operational requirements, we need to speed up the new Frigate programmes and perhaps add a couple of extra stripped down hulls-the ‘built for and not with’ concept. The latter would be relatively cheap and be available for upgrades in an emergency. Also allow the newest of the Type 23’s to overlap when the 26’s come on line

  3. I think we should be rethinking the OPV’s and seeing if designs can be adjusted for the yet to be built ones to incorporate a hanger. Counter piracy/trafficing/smuggling roles need a helicopter and they need a small contingent of marines, although this I guess would then result in us not having enough helicopters for the role.

  4. Steve, I wonder whether a bit of RN ingenuity (from angled flight decks to Ikara to ski jumps) might sprout on the new OPVs – a collapsible hanger, perhaps?

  5. our OPV’s would probably be outgunned by arms trafficers, they look nice but continue with our current policy of building expensive ships with fantastic technology yet no teeth

    • I suspect not out gunned but probably out powered speed wise and they can’t use their main gun anyway since its a police role and so guns are for self defence last choice only. The problem is they arent very useful at low end or high end. We brought them to keep the yards open but should have built something that was good at a real world role rather than just nice on paper.

      • Saying that if they could arm a uav with a low power missile that could take out a propeller of a pirate boat, then these ships would be a lot more useful.

        • There’s a pair of interesting articles on SaveTheRoyalNavy on our OPVs. The second one (http://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/improving-the-capability-of-a-future-opv-squadron-part-2/) discusses what could be added to our existing OPVs. It makes interesting reference to what the Germans have put on their Branschweig class corvettes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braunschweig-class_corvette) which are 1,700 tonnes compared to a Batch 2 OPV at 2000 tonnes.

          Branschweig carries Camcopter S-100 UAV (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schiebel_Camcopter_S-100) which is an interesting piece of kit. Batch 2 OPV can store an ISO 20′ container either side of the crane just behind the RIBs without encroaching in the flight deck so that could serve as hangar or hangars for S-100 embarked or not depending on tasking. S-100 can carry LMM (Martlet) so gives what you suggest.

          Another option for Martlet would be to swap the 30mm mount for a Sigma mount which is the same 30mm + a 7 x LMM launcher attached to give strike out to 8km vs about 5km for the 30mm on its own.

          The two options aren’t mutually exclusive of course and having common missile (LMM) between on-board launcher and UAV is good to have.

  6. Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody, somewhere in the the MoD(N) would hatch – in conjunction with the government – an appropriate, realtime strategy for our one time proud and capable navy. Deployments such as this for Mounts Bay are a national embarrassment!

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