Amphibious warship HMS Albion has reached a new milestone in her refit before rejoining the fleet.
HMS Bulwark has been what the government call “Britain’s on-call assault ship” as her sister HMS Albion undergoes her refit.
Next year the two ships trade places as HMS Bulwark goes into long-term refit and HMS Albion completes her massive two-year keel-to-topmast overhaul.
According to a Royal Navy press release:
“HMS Albion has been gradually coming to life since the middle of 2015. A year into her refit, work below the waterline was completed in dry dock, allowing the to be flooded and she was towed to a new basin for completion of the refit afloat.
Today she has her superstructure covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin, and with the 87-strong ship’s company ticking off milestones by the week as they gear up for the crew moving back on board early in the New Year, the arrival of the first commanding officer in six years, then sea trials and being formally handed back to the Navy and a rededication in the autumn followed by operational sea training.
So far the project has involved 3,500 people with a maximum of 500 at any one time. By the time the revamp is finished, the ship will have devoured 1.3 million man-hours.
HMS Albion is the first vessel to be newly equipped with a fresh, rather than salt-water, cooling system, which has meant new piping fitted throughout. It means the sailors and the hi-tech systems aboard should be far cooler in the Gulf region, for instance.
Some 25 miles of new electrical cables have been installed, two miles of pipework replaced, 100 pumps overhauled, 1,500 valves replaced and 20,000 square metres of steel in 34 ballast tanks preserved – enough to cover three football pitches.
The ‘Phalanx’ automated close-defence gun system is being fitted in place of the former ‘Goalkeeper’ system, which is being retired across the fleet. The ship now has the newly fitted ‘Artisan’ radar which can track more than 800 contacts as close as 125ft or as far away as 125 miles. To deal with so much potential extra data from radars, the operations room has a new command system.
The vital ‘soul’ of the ship – her people – will return early next year with half of the crew transferring to HMS Albion. In the meantime, the ‘skeleton’ crew already on board have been reminding affiliated organisationsand VIPs – notably the city of Chester – and the ship’s sponsor, Princess Anne, that their ship is on her way back.”
Commander Mark Jones, HMS Albion’s head of weapon engineering, said:
“We’ve done our utmost to keep the spirit of Albion alive – certainly while we’ve been refitting her, with ship’s company attending memorial services to Jutland, Remembrance Day parades, visiting our affiliates. That will only step up in 2017.”