Assault ship, HMS Albion, has met with French helicopter carrier Dixmude and her escort along with some of the French ships embarked forces and aircraft, that happen to be British.

In the coming months HMS Albion, alongside HMS Sutherland, will be contributing to the international efforts to monitor prohibited trading at sea by the DPRK, which provides a major source of funding for its illegal nuclear programme. While in the region, both vessels will visit several ports and take part in joint training with allies and partners, including the US, the Republic of Korea and Japan.

HMS Argyll will arrive in the region later in the year, when she will participate in a Five Power Defence Arrangements exercise with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore before also travelling to North East Asia for further joint training and exercises. The deployment of these three ships will mean that the Royal Navy will have a vessel in the strategically critical Asia-Pacific region for the first time since 2013 and will have an almost unbroken presence there this year. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced earlier in the month that HMS Albion has deployed to North East Asia to ‘safeguard free trade, partake in joint training and exercises, and support UN sanctions’ against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“Our Armed Forces are at the forefront of Global Britain, and the deployment of HMS Albion, Sutherland and Argyll demonstrates our unwavering commitment to our international responsibilities and to maintaining peace, security and prosperity in the region. Until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions, the UK will continue working closely with partners and allies to keep up pressure and strictly enforce existing sanctions, ensuring not only regional security but that of the UK as well.”

In the words of her operators, the Royal Navy, the role of the HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion, is to ‘deliver the punch of the Royal Marines ashore by air and by sea, with boats from the landing dock in the belly of the ship and by assault helicopter from the two-spot flight deck’.

40 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel and two Wildcat helicopters joined the French naval task force for a five-month mission earlier in the year. The flagship of the deployment, helicopter assault ship FS Dixmude, left her home in Toulon today bound the Middle East and ultimately the South Pacific.

“The 30-strong detachment of Brits, led by Lieutenant Mike Wells, left home at RNAS Yeovilton last week for the two-day flight down to the south of France to join 50 US marines, two Spanish Cougar helicopters and 133 French officer cadets who are beginning their operational training.

The ship’s port calls will include Jakarta, Bali, Darwin, Saigon and Singapore. British personnel will take part in amphibious exercises and Defence Engagement. This builds on the UK’s very successful participation in last year’s Jeanne D’Arc mission.

The UK’s contribution to France’s annual Jeanne D’Arc naval deployment demonstrates a shared commitment from both countries to enhance their maritime cooperation in home waters and around the world, in support of global security and prosperity and protection of freedom of navigation.

This priority was agreed at the UK-France Summit in January 2018.”

The deployment is part of the UK’s programme of bilateral defence cooperation with French forces, which includes the development of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, a rapidly deployable joint UK-French force that can respond to crises.

British and French forces also operate together as members of NATO, with France agreeing to contribute troops to the UK-led enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Estonia in 2019.

56 COMMENTS

  1. Nice photo! Wonder if they’ll meet up with the USS Wasp upgunned ESG from the 7th Fleet out of Yokosuka. THAT would be a picture…

    Cheers!

    • I think they already have Sea Martlet and are just waiting on Sea Venom to finish off trials (I think it was first test launched last year). I could be wrong about that however.

    • I think they are waiting for the installation of the new weapons carrier (“wing”) that Leonardo showed off a few months ago. Due for installation from the end of this year?

  2. It’s deploying for the first time with the first Marine F35B’s. Better yet, it would REALLY irritate the PLAN…

    Cheers!

    • Almost like these things could be planned…..
      A USN assault ship (LPH) filled with USMC meeting up with an RN assault ship (LPD) filled with RM operating thousands of miles from home, imagine if the French were there as well with an assault ship filled with FM.

      You could almost feel a photo op coming.
      3 independent nations, far from home operating together. They should do this more often……

      • Add the RAN and the JMSDF to the mix and sail them past certain glorified sandbars in the SCS and you’d almost think it were “planned”… 😀 Keeping my fingers crossed.

        Cheers!

  3. “Global Britain”
    Like I said in earlier posts you are going to hear a lot more on this.
    Stand by for Fusion Doctrine and others coming, HMG is starting to step out of the post referendum blues and pull its collective finger out

    • Let’s hope so. Unless it is all torpedoed by HM opposition playing party politics and oopposing every brexit vote in the Commons, leaving the UK in the EU in all but name.

      • Operating closely MN, opersting from their decks… the plan could actually be to ditch the RN platforms…

        AND. This is a great website. Does politics have rear its head? I’m a remainer.

        • Remainer or leave, don’t care.
          Politics is on the website, but I would hope the over riding theme of the website is defence matters and how they affect the U.K.

    • I had the impression Martlet was good to go and a vague memory they are waiting for Venom so they can fit both missile interfaces in one go on a common launcher; which would reconcile with Chris comment ..if my memory is sound of course. Always a problem.

  4. I wonder what is aboard ocean. It seems no helicopters, as they had to rely on ones based in the area to take the photos and no sign of the Sutherland (i assume not there yet), but what about Marines?

  5. Just been reading the crew of the Albion was around 600 sailors and marines when they left the UK.. So i would of thought there would be a handy amount of marines aboard ship but not sure about exact numbers.

    • Albion is meant to have a crew of around 300, so i assume somewhere between 2 and 3 hundred marines including support staff.

    • She’s an impressive ship, especially with what Gunbuster told us about the scale of her command & control facilities, but would it have been that big an incremental cost to have stretched her enough to allow volume for at least some hangar space? Maybe the rationale was that in a mass assault 2 or 3 Merlin are noise but in peacetime roles the difference between being able to embark even a single helicopter or not seems pretty stark.

      • I think this issue has been discussed at length in the demise of HMS Ocean. It is simply that Albion and Bulwark are what they are, LPDs. They were never envisaged to be LHDs so only have effectively helo lily pads. The LPD concept is perfectly valid e.g. USS San Antonio. The issue is that while the US can afford USS Americas, USS Wasps and USS San Antonio types in numbers smaller European navies can’t. Hence the emergence of Mistral and Juan Carlos LHD designs.

      • No need to stretch an LPD. All you need to do is add another deck on top and transfer the offices and equipment rooms Fwd of the flight deck to that area. Then you would get a Port and Stbd hanger big enough for a Merlin or Wildcat in each .
        Wont happen… though it was discussed back in the day…

    • The Booties come and go depending on exercises. They wont deploy onboard for the whole time. On previous Taurus deployments the booties flew out and joined us , did there stuff onboard and ashore then flew back on completion. To be honest there is not a lot of point having the booties around for the trip back to the UK if there are no exercises.
      They are a drain on the ships resources during long periods of inactivity and expensive to feed and keep happy. Booties are happiest crawling around in jungle eating food out of a RatPack not living onboard a cramped LPD. 🙂

  6. What I find very telling about the current state of the Royal Navy is that we have sent our current fleet flagship HMS Albion to the other side of the world with no escort warships.
    Even the French have sent a frigate with Dixmunde.

    • I was struck by that as well.

      I see that the French escort frigate (Surcouf) is La Fayette class – 3,600t fully loaded, 125m length, 100mm gun, 2 x 20mm autocannon, 1 x medium helo, 8 missile Crotale launcher, 8 Exocet and FFBNW 16 x Aster 15.

      Just perhaps, if we can get a good cost-effective design and build for T31, what the French are fielding here might be somewhat comparable to our escorting one of our major vessels with a T31. In fact if we do get some Sea Ceptor actually fitted on T31 as opposed to FFBNW and ever address the capability gap re anti-ship missile with something like NSM on all frigates a T31 would be quite a lot more capable than a La Fayette class. A single frigate of either class as an escort isn’t exactly a battle group but at least we might have the potential to keep up with our neighbours in this respect and not be sailing with absolutely no escorts.

        • Funny that we’re thinking along the same lines. I also had the “if we have enough of them” thought too.

          On the numbers thing, although we’d all like more, maybe we don’t actually need more and even maintaining the 13 frigate total (8 T26 + 5 T31) will yield an improvement. The same number of frigates might yield at least one extra vessel deployable at any given time due to reduced crew requirements meaning less likelihood of not being able to crew all vessels due to personnel shortages and possibly also newer ships giving fewer unexpected maintenance hiccups causing delays in getting vessels back into a deployable state.

          I’m still hoping for at least 6 T31 which I think is very possible so that HMG can say it has increased frigate numbers and 6 is the fewest it can build to make that true. Just maybe 7 or 8 is conceivable but in the current financial climate and with so many other calls on budget even within defence I think anything beyond that is a pipe dream.

          • We have 13 frigates which would be enough to cover this activity, if we had all of them actually crewed. Having multiple ships alongside at a time where the navy is being asked to show the flag across a wider area is just nonsense but it is what it is.

          • Agreed. T26 is said (by Wikipedia) to have a basic crew complement of 118 and BMT quotes Venator 110 (for instance) with a basic crew of 85 + 10 for helo ops/maintenance so using 95 for the T31 estimate gives a total crew requirement for 8 x T26 plus 5 x T31 of 1,419. Wikipedia lists a T23’s core crew as 185 so even assuming current personnel shortages are such that we can actually only crew 10 x T23 at the moment that still gives 1,850 people released from T23, enough to crew 8 x T26 plus 9 x T31 with 146 personnel left over.

            I’m sure the maths isn’t that simple, for instance perhaps fewer crew onboard pushes more load onto the between-deployments maintenance schedules which results in needing more shore-based engineers. I just throw out the above to probably get shot down in flames and a chance for me to learn something in the process.

        • Ok hear’th begins the naval manpower lesson!

          You start with a watch and station bill. That details firstly all the jobs onboard that require manning up at action stations. So that basically is bums on seats in the ops room, people in firefighting/damage control party, weapon aimers/loaders, Engine watch keepers, the flight deck crew. That will be everyone onboard.
          So for a 85 crew frigate it would be something like ( I am guessing here)
          5 on the Bridge
          10 on the flight deck
          15-20 in the ops room/ radio room
          6 upper deck guns crew aimers and loaders
          10 for the engines and HQ1 damage control center
          25 for Fire and repair party.
          5 First aid party.
          Thats in the mid 70s already and there are lots of other jobs at action to do. Weapon reload party for torpedoes and missiles, Ammo resupply to guns crews, Decoy loading teams, Spare part supply from stores, Weapon repair teams, Action messing (food!!) . Its hard work on a T23 …they will need to be very creative on a T31!

          From that you go to 50% manning for defence watches which details half the crew at action station manning and the other half off watch resting. That is the highest state of manning you can sustain for a prolonged period. Its hard work, drives you a little bit mad and is a major pain in the arse to do. The longest I have done was some 70 odd days with a few days break here and there in the middle during the Bosnia crisis and again in the Gulf…
          Then you go to normal cruising watches which is 1 in 3 or 4 with min ops room manning and the crew doing normal watch keeping for 4hrs on . There are variations on the cruising watch routine but that is the basic premise. For OPS room staff 4-6 hours looking at a screen is about the limit without a break ( there are variations,doing 8 or 12 hrs on, west country, dogs all night in, long middle/long morning)
          Then you have additional jobs to superimpose over the above jobs at action and defence watches . So for instance you still be able to do a Replenishment at Sea. Boarding Party where you send a team of people away from the ship for hours/days but still need to cover their jobs onboard.
          Ships crew on leave, Ships crew on training and promotion courses, medical leave/unfit for duty all add to it, advanced leave party etc.
          When alongside you need to get some time off so you only have a minimum duty part onboard , normally around 16 or 24 people, to cover for emergencies and watch keeping rounds. The engineers then get the equipment to do deep maintenance, leave periods are normally planned in as well.

          You then need to manage the sea shore ratio to make sure you dont burn people out and that you dont exceed the minimum time ashore levels that are mandated. Having a pool of manpower ashore is some help. You can swap people in and out of the ship and minimise gaps in the watch and station bill. There are always issues however. You dont always have the right people with the right courses and SQEPness available. Training takes time. Some individual courses take many months of training to complete and a job onboard may require you to do 12/18 months worth of courses before you join a ship. If those courses are away from your base port that eats up the min time ashore/in base port ratio. If the courses are not available you may have to do them after you join the ship so you end up winging it for months until you do the specialist course. If its a safety course that may effect the whole ships ability to conduct operations.( I once had a min time ashore of 18 months…my Pre Joining Training courses away from my base port totaled 22 months. So my actual time with my family was severely curtailed and limited to basically weekends only.)

          Contractor Logistical Support has been tried on T45. The fact that it is not, I believe, going to be continued with tells you a lot. Its expensive and inflexible. In addition the maintainers lose core skills because they cannot/are not allowed to take equipment apart to fix it.( although they are more than capable of doing it)

          There are no easy manpower fixes. The RN stopped recruiting in the 80/90s for a time to save money. Now that “Black Hole” is moving through the RNs SNCO cadre resulting in not enough engineers to fill the jobs. The resulting Gaps mean you end up having to do other peoples work ( 1 maintainer looking after 2 or 3 maintainers worth of kit is not uncommon) The Engineers they do have are pished off with never being home, ( Me… hence I left after 34 years). The engineers leave for a nice stable 9-5 job with better pay and conditions and so the situation gets worse in the RN with less engineers, more gaps and more pished off people leaving.

          We shall see what happens with T31…but it is going to take some serious juggling of manpower to make it work.
          Right Rant over…

          • Thanks Gunbuster. Really interesting, if somewhat depressing re the RN issues.

            I read a while back some posts somewhere on another forum expressing some scepticism about the whole lean-manning concept with respect to maintenance. The concern was that in order to operate a ship with fewer crew on board one thing that would get cut would be some of the maintenance-at-sea tasks such that, when a vessel came in after a deployment, certain bits of onboard equipment would require more work than they otherwise would have had they had a more comprehensive at-sea maintenance regime hence some of the savings on number of crew on board would be offset by increased requirements for shoreside engineers. Is that a valid concern or was it just someone making stuff up to sound knowledgeable on a forum?

          • @Julian
            The RN went down the lean man road with T23. We discovered that using just shore side maintenance engineers didn’t work. The equipment availability rates at sea where nowhere near what was advertised and you had to do the maintenance or the equipment stopped working or was sub optimal in performance.
            T45 had CLS which is a massive financial drain. Now you have some techs on T45 who cannot fix the kit because the default position for the past 5 years was ” its broke…get BAe in to fix it ” and so there is no corporate knowledge on fixing things.

            A lot of it stemmed from 3 things that happened in the late 90s early 00s to make a perfect storm of engineering management disaster
            1. The disastrous Operator/Maintainer OM manning implementation. ( Now abandoned)
            2. Pay 2000 inequalities for engineers compared to other branches (Now finally corrected)
            3. Disbanding of the Artificer cadre, Just as everyone in Civvy street started to do apprenticeships again, the RN stopped them. ( Looks like it maybe reinstated)

            Yes Tiffs where expensive to train, it took 5 years to qualify and retention was difficult but what you got was outstanding (hence civvy firms wanted them!) Multi tasking, Multi disciplined Engineers who could think on their feet, make the decisions, fix the kit, get it working using fair means or foul, and turn their hand to just about anything whether they had been trained to work on equipment or not.
            But for whatever reason the RN decided that was not the kind of Senior NCO they want so they started to kill the cadre and let the legacy Tiffs wither on the vine …

  7. I don’t know if it’s as low as standard commercial spec but I’m sure I read somewhere that the Mistrals aren’t built to full military spec. Is that true? If yes then what standard is Mistral built to and how does that compare to Juan Carlos/Canberra classes?

  8. Lets hope that when Albion and Bulwark are replaced, it will be by two roughly 25,000 ton LPHs with troops, helicopters, command staff, and hospital. With four landing ships, the RN could put a big force ashore.

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