HMS Ocean entered Plymouth for the last time in Royal Navy service today and was welcomed by well-wishers and flanked by landing craft and tugs firing water hoses high into the air.

The amphibious helicopter and commando carrier sailed into Devonport Naval Base with her decks lined by the crew in dress uniforms, and with the traditional 203-metre decommissioning pennant flying. She is to decommission from the Royal Navy at a ceremony in Devonport on 27th March.

The commanding officer of HMS Ocean, Captain Robert Pedre, said:

“My ship’s company and I are immensely proud to serve in HMS Ocean, the Fleet Flagship of the Royal Navy, as I am sure the people of Plymouth are proud their city has been home to the ship for nearly two decades. 

Our final entry into Devonport will understandably be tinged with sadness, as we reflect on a truly remarkable operational period for HMS Ocean and the many significant achievements we have accomplished together on this great warship. 

HMS Ocean’s decommissioning pennant pays testament to her extraordinary operational record spanning two decades of Royal Navy service, proudly serving as a safeguard for our nation’s interests globally.”

In her 20 years of service, HMS Ocean has been involved in operations off Sierra Leone (2000), off Iraq (2003), off Libya (2011) and, most recently, humanitarian operations in the Caribbean. The ship has conducted the evacuation of British nationals and other entitled personnel from numerous areas of conflict around the world and delivered humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to thousands in need, to name, but a few of her operational highlights.

Last year HMS Ocean completed the last three months of a seven-month operational deployment to the Middle East as Flagship of the normally US-led Combined Task Force 50, and deployed as a NATO flagship in the summer.  On arriving in the Eastern Mediterranean, she rapidly responded in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, steaming 4,500 nautical miles across the Atlantic to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to four Caribbean territories over a fortnight of operations.

Recently, Brazil confirmed the purchase of British helicopter carrier HMS Ocean.

We were informed by a source in the Brazilian defence community that the vessel has been sold for £84 million. Roberto Lopes has informed us that the purchase of HMS Ocean by the Brazilian Navy was confirmed within the last week by Brazilian Defence Minister Raul Jungmann.

We understand the first group of four Brazilian officers will head to the UK within the next few weeks. We also understand that there are doubts over the retention of the Phalanx CIWS by Brazil but are unsure regarding the reasons why. The vessel will remain in the UK until October or November this year.

This comes not long after we reported that three more Boeing P-8 maritime reconnaissance aircraft have been ordered by the MoD and will be based at Lossiemouth. All nine will be based at Lossiemouth and this news confirms that with three more on the order books there are now a total of five confirmed orders.

We broke the news in March that Brazil was interested in helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, this has now been confirmed by the Brazilian government. Then in April, we reported that the Brazilian Navy had reportedly sent a proposal to pay for helicopter carrier HMS Ocean in instalments.

According to Brazilian journalist Roberto Lopes in an e-mail to us, the ship’s cost to the Brazilian Navy is fixed at £84.3 million pounds (312 million Brazilian Reais). Commander of the Brazilian Navy, Admiral Eduardo Leal Ferreira, claimed that the price of Ocean seemed “convenient”.

Earlier in the year, IHS Janes reported that Brazil’s MoD authorised efforts to purchase Ocean once she leaves UK service.

We understand from Roberto Lopes via e-mail, the source who let us know that Brazil has already submitted a payment plan for the vessel, that the officers involved in the ship acquisition process are optimistic and are already discussing details beyond the technical and financial assessments that have been made, such as the name of the ship.

“Minas Gerais is the strongest designation at the time. Rio de Janeiro was ‘saved’ for the future aircraft carrier. However, nothing definite. Only with the execution of the acquisition is that defined.”

This comes as the Brazilian Navy have decided to abandon the refit of the  aircraft carrier Sao Paulo and decommission the vessel after a series of technical issues and accidents. Rectification costs are understood to be a major factor in this decision.

32 COMMENTS

  1. Enough to make your blood boil. Why do successive British governments hate ‘ a wealth of riches’ and a keenness or a propensity, to scrap or sell off perfectly serviceable kit? Forty Tornados go this year and will end up on the Marham dump by Spring next year. Not due to fatigue or unreliability, but because the MOD sees them as redundant or some other daft rational? I doubt the recent recipients of their weapon loads would agree! No, this is nothing short of vandalism, and I fear the two assault ships will soon follow.

    • Maurice – Sorry but you are so wrong on both points.
      HMS Ocean has served its purpose and done it well. It is a one ship class and therefore expensive to maintain and crew and is now redundant. She is being sold not scrapped.

      And as for Tornados they are going in 2019 not 2018 and whenever they do go its (again) because they have served their purpose, done it well but are now redundant (and as it happens old technology and expensive to maintain). Maybe grab a beer, have a read of this and calm yourself:

      https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/raf-hails-typhoon-worlds-potent-fighter-completing-weapons-testing/

      • The merchant Navy could man her if required and held in readiness in the meantime. As for Tornado, I understand they are old tech but like the Harrier, Jaguar, and Buccaneer were all upgraded to fly, in some cases for years. The Tornado is still a useful plane and has shown how capable it is whilst engaged against targets in the Middle East. I would retain them until the F35 fleet is really established. I’m sure there are a number of pilots who would be happy to keep them going until both them, and the planes are retired?

        The UK has been very fortunate to have escaped a major conflict in the last decade, both in the air and at sea, considering we decommissioned too many useful assets in that period. And in doing so, exposed our country to great danger. I don’t believe it’s necessary to dispense with either Ocean or Tornado at this juncture, as both could serve as reserve assets for some time to come.

        The beer sounds like a good idea.

        • 40 years old that’s how old the tornado will be by retirement the cost of maintaining them must be huge! Not to mention that due to the large amount missions flown in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan over the last decade many airframes are coming up to their limit!
          This added to the fact the Typhoon can now do all and more than the Tornado why keep them? By 2019 I expect we will have or be very close to one squadron of fully operational F-35’s

          Ocean however is a different matter we could of kept her for another year, now we have no operational carrier at all which isn’t great!

          • Err…HMS is currently performing flight trials with Merlin and Chinook. What I see is a plan coming together. As Ocean leaves the stage enter QE stage left with perfect timing.

          • Forty years old is not what is important, it’s their airworthiness that matters. There are a number of airforces using Tornado, and their OOS dates will be later than the RAF machines. If age is so important in determining retirement, then what the hell is the B52 still doing in service? Most of the current Tornados have been rebuilt and updated, some many times since they were originally built. As for F35’s they will be far from frontline ready in 2019, even if they get enough airframes.I believe the Navy has penned in 2022/23 before the carrier squadrons will be trained up. As for Typhoon, we simply don’t have enough of them at the moment fully capable, especially the retained Tranch 1’s.

  2. 20 years great service – thank you to all crew and everyone involved in what has been a great career.

    Time to move on and I am supportive of the decision to sell Ocean to our ally Brazil, and I hope she does as well for them as she has for us.

    The next 30 years + are all about the QEC and regeneration of the RN as Britain returns to it expeditionary roots.

    I personally think an Army of 64k is the right size within a single force structure that sees an increased Navy (36k excluding RM) and RAF (36k) and a centralised command, support and logistics corps covering the new integrated service (circa 100-120k – inc civilians and reserve).

    No doubt we need to rebalance and this is the first big move in doing so.

      • Hopefully no one Paul, but I do see us re-in forcing NATO colleagues and believe we should not have bases on mainland Europe.

        We should be ready and prepared to re-inforce Europe quickly if required and be able to put an expeditionary force anywhere in the world (but really the Northern flank).

        I also dont see a big need for tanks – and would rather have 200+ apaches instead working alongside our warriors and MIV’s. I know this isn’t liked by many – I just think tanks have had their day for the UK – but should we need them its easier to build a tank than it is a complex attack helicopter.

        • I think Putin’s big ambitions are to bring the Ukraine back into the Russian fold and he would like a Russian corridor to Kaliningrad. I do think we need to posirion heavy armour where it is likely to be needed. You cant quickly reimforce with 80 ton tanks in numbers, that’s just the laws of physics. That said, I agree the best dedence against tanks is Apache and Typhoon with Brimstone. I don’t see the Northern flank as a concern. There was a recent article in the Express saying Astute 7 could be cancelled to make the cuts to the defence budget. This would be the height of folly. The Russians are building lots of new quiet subs. The Type 31 will not sport a towed sonar and we will ( eventually) only have 8 Poseidon P-8. I’d swap the LPD’s for 2 more Type 26 or an 8th Astute in a heartbeat.

        • Unfortunately with every attack concept a counter is developed. Take Apache, it has been the King of the battlefield after taking over from the tank. However, Israel then deigned Trophy the Active Protection System for their Merkava 3/4 tanks. It was originally designed to defeat RPGs launched from roof tops and alley ways whilst operating in an urban environment. However, due to the numerous border incursions in to Gaza, it has proved itself against modern guided anti tank missiles for example Kornet which is one of the latest Russian ATGMs. This missile is also fitted to Mi24, 28 and Ka50s and is seen as a equivalent to Hellfire as fitted to Apache.
          Therefore life has come full circle. The Russian T14 Armata for instance uses an APS system (although in my opinion not in the same league as Trophy) which may be a suitable defence against Hellfire. Which leaves the tank with a kinetic round as the best method of disabling another tank. Except, the Challenger has not had any serious investment in anti tank rounds since the first gulf war as at the time the T72/90 series was still within the gun’s capabilities. Now T14 has come along, with massive frontal armour and a remotely operated main gun, we definitely require more than a sensor and C2 upgrade to the Challenger!

  3. I’m always saddened how Great Britain makes such a big think of decline. Is there this much fanfare with jets of water in the air and escorts when something enters service apart from the QEC?

    Ideally we need a dedicated LPH replacement but as has been well discussed here and elsewhere that is not happening at present. The QEC can easily cover the Company size air assault role. Not ideal using your Fleet Carrier but this is what we face.

    The landing Craft Ocean carries ( 4 Assault Squadron RM ) should ideally be transferred to The Bays, but will also probably be chopped.

  4. There is a great article on Think Defence on FLO/FLO solutions that are both inexpensive and very flexible.

    Ultimately I think the RN should probably buy 8 of these (4 immediately and 4 when the RORO’s are due).

    These vessels can do what we require and at £100m each offer so much flexibility and utility and importantly there is a global market for them – so we can rent them out when we don’t need them and probably cover their costs in a couple of years.

    OK – these aren’t dedicated ships (actually thats the point of them) but they do allow us to deploy close in and whilst they won’t replace Ocean, if we keep the Albions then we have plenty of command and these can provide heavy logistics.

    Out of the box thinking has always been part of the UK military’s DNA (bouncing bomb, radar, aircraft carriers….) and this may actually be another point where necessity actually forces us to do something dramatic and very successful.

  5. I am astonished at how relatively little this ship is being sold for. How much are other ships sold off for? How much will be made by selling off the Albion, Bulwark and three Type 23 frigates?

    • No one pays top dollar for cast offs. So not much at all. Barely anything relatively, no more than the cost of a refit. If you get very lucky you might get a UK yard to handle a refit after sale. However usually when a country buys a ship from abroad they usually give that work to a domestic yard as a salve to their own industries.

    • Its better to sell it off at this price than the scrap value which is negligible, all things said Ocean has been great for the UK taxpayer and the RN.

  6. Ocean has been a great ship and proved very valuable to the country. We all know the financial/manpower pressures but a few more years could have been squeezed out of her.
    I hope her legacy is not forgotten and we remember what you can achieve without spending a fortune on gold plating everything we buy. She and the Bays have been fantastic servants, very capable and economic to run.
    The retention of the LPDs is now essential and long term two 25,000t cost effectively built LHDs to replace the LPDs would get us back the dedicated amphibious airborne and sealift we require.
    To appease the bean counters these would also replace RFA Argus.

    • sjb – I was with you in your opening remarks but have to disagree over any new ships being LHDs. And certainly cannot agree we scrap LPDs to build LHDs. We need to ADD larger versions of Albion and Bulwark not build another Ocean. We have the QEs to handle air power at sea and they can deliver more, and a bigger variety of, aircraft than can another Ocean. Any new investment must be in LPDs so we can land bigger armoured vehicles to support the RMs. Just a few Challengers crewed by RMs would be decisive in initial landings. We can launch F-35s for initial radar and defence suppression and Apache and Wildcat for more field support and specific suppression roles from a QE a long way off the landing site but we still need the larger LPDs to actually deliver the attack ‘on the ground’.

  7. Chris my words were long term replacement of the LPDs i.e when they have reached the end of their service lives. I like you don’t like waste and scrapping perfectly useful equipment is the worst kind. On your second point I think you are confusing LPH and LHD. Two LHDs with docks of the size of our current LPDs plus a hangar at 25,000t is the answer. We don’t need another LPH design.
    Exposing a QE supercarrier inshore to ferry men via helicopter is not wise and is very high risk.

  8. This is not a good news story- do not get me wrong I think the QE carriers are great and once we actually get enough F35Bs onboard them to deliver real airpower then they should prove truelly awe inspiring vessels.
    Problems are huge though- we have not got the full remit of vessels and support to deliver true carrier strike- the numbers of escort warships in the RN are woefully and dangerously low.
    We need the MOD to commit to more than 48 F35Bs in active service- a follow on order for a further 64+ jets is needed asap.
    The use of the QE carriers as jumping off points for an amphibious assault is not great- these £3billion strike carriers and fleet flagships should not be exposed to close inshore assault.
    They are supposed to be present to provide an air superiority and close air support strike capability to the fleet.
    Scrapping HMS ocean is opening up yet another capability gap in our already desperately thin order of battle. We need a replacement 25,000T LPH asap. Also need to keep both the Albion and Bulwark LPDs which have still got a good 15-20 years service life left in them. We should not scrap or downgrade our prized amphibious capabilities- we are only one of 3 NATO countries able to deliver a strong amphibious response (USA, UK and France) and this needs to be protected and maintained.
    It is high time our beloved Tory government actually grew some balls and got serious about defence and funded defence correctly- by putting a defence to GDP ratio into law set at 3% would be a good start. After all if the DFIAD (department for international aid and development) can have a set budget of 0.7% GDP per annum (£14 billion a year given away last year) why can defence not have the 3% (£52 billion per annum) it needs to ensure we do not become a 2nd rate armed forces unable to project power and dangerously overstretched in terms of RN hull numbers, ships, subs, RAF aircraft, MPA’s and army units.
    The world is a dangerous place and we are sleep walking into a disastrous situation whereby our military will be called into action against a first rate opponent and lose due to defence cuts and lack of capability, numbers and defence in depth.

  9. The reason they are probably querying CIWS Phalanx may something to do with ITAR. You cannot just sell on military kit if it contains US derived equipment or equipment that contains restricted items ( Even if its a single IC Chip on a single board) . You need permission and a license from the US Dept of Commerce or you find yourself on the receiving end of a court case and a massive fine. BAe got caught out a few years ago selling on the T23s to Chile (amongst many other violations). That case came with a 400Mil Dollar fine!

    As for the sales cost, 84 mil aint bad. Add to that the support contact for the supply of spares and training for the crew and Babcock will be very happy.

      • It may be unless the RN are buying in new builds of the latest version of Phalanx with the FLIR mod fitted. Oceans phalanx are probably pretty old and worn by now. it may be more cost effective to go with new.

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