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.