There’s a new layer of defence around HMS Lancaster and her 200 crew to keep her foes at bay.
The Royal Navy say that the Portsmouth-based warship has been fitted with heavy machine-guns to fend off small, fast-attack craft – guns tested for the first time off the South Coast this week as the ‘Queen’s Frigate’ shakes off winter cobwebs.
“After a hectic 2020, the ship began this year undergoing maintenance before resuming her place in the Fleet’s order of battle having sailed on Sunday. The .50 calibre gun has long been a favourite of the Royal Marines (on WMIK Land Rovers, for example) and aircrew – it’s fitted to the Fleet Air Arm’s Wildcat and Merlin helicopters when they are providing air cover or hunting down smugglers.
But for close-protection ships either rely on the lighter general purpose machine gun (GPMG), sometimes the Minigun (a manually-operated Gatling gun) and, as a last resort, standard-issue SA80 rifles. As the name suggests the .50 heavy machine-gun – generally known as the ’50 cal’ or HMG (heavy machine gun) – spews out half inch/12.7mm diameter shells at 500-600 rounds per minute.”
Effective at ranges up to about 2,000 metres, its bullets can penetrate light armour and will tear through plastics such as RIB speed boats.
As well as gunnery, the Royal Navy say that Lancaster’s trials this week including working with Wildcats from Yeovilton by day and night to ensure they can operate the helicopter safely in all conditions, and testing her engines.