RFA Mounts Bay has completed a brief maintenance period in the American port of Charleston to prepare her for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season. 

The work was undertaken by American firm Detyens to allow the vessel to remain in the region. It is expected that RFA Mounts Bay will remain forward deployed for up to three years in the Caribbean. Detyens Shipyard took over the old Charleston Naval Shipyard in 1996 and is one of the largest commercial shipyard facilities in the United States boasting three dry docks, one floating dock and six piers.

Prior to going in for maintenance, Mounts Bay was most recently deployed providing support to the Turks and Caicos Islands where local authorities had been struggling to curb a mass influx of illegal arrivals from neighbouring states. The multi-agency Operation Guardian was launched in February and worked to bring the situation under control. First quarter statistics from the territory’s government revealed that some 432 individuals had been deported following the operation.

The 2018 Atlantic Hurricane season will begin at the start of June and is forecast to be an above average season. Estimates suggest there could be between 14-18 named storms and at least seven hurricanes. This follows a busy hurricane system in 2017 which same hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria cause widespread damage.

The Bay class Landing Ship Docks are one of the Naval Service’s most capable platforms for Humanitarian and Disaster Relief operations with carrying capacity for large quantities of plant and supplies, landing craft and mexeflote systems to take them ashore and an embarked Lynx helicopter for aviation support. During the 2017 season RFA Mounts Bay worked extensively in support of the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos Islands following their impact by severe hurricanes.

Following a brief workup period RFA Mounts Bay will steam for the Cayman Islands, Britain’s most westerly territory, to conduct a large scale landing exercise with local authorities. It will then continue its regular cycle of visits to British territories and Commonwealth states in the region to support disaster planning, preparation and training exercise.

42 COMMENTS

  1. A definite step in the right direction. Apart from being morally obliged to support our dependent territories and allied countries the provision of soft power will become more and more important in the years ahead. Very best wishes to all those involved.

    • Charleston and Myrtle Beach are very nice this time of year with Spring Break and all. I’m sure the crew enjoyed themselves… 😀

      Aloha!

    • Morally obliged?

      Those islands are British, under our sovereignty, which means it is our duty to protect and assist.

        • Doing something because it’s the right thing to do, but are not actually bound to do it, thats a moral obligation.

          We are bound to do it! Have a read about the the British overseas territories, read about what the FCO’s main responsibilities are.

          Among our responsibilities are defence and safety.

          There is a massive difference between a moral obligation and a responsibility, two different things entirely.

          • A moral obligation is to do what is right for some one rather than what is wrong so I really do not see what your difficulty is but have t your own way if you must.

          • Yes I know but that’s isn’t why we do it, we don’t do it because it’s the right thing to do we do it because it’s the governments job, it’s the governments job to protect and assist British citizens in British territory.

            I’m just pointing out that it was the wrong thing to say, I’m struggling why you still can’t grasp it.

            When there is bad floods in the UK do you think the PM goes “oh well I suppose it’s the right thing to do isn’t it, we better send help”

            No the help is sent without giving it a second thought because it’s or job and responsibility.

  2. Great versatile ships. No way in our right minds can we be thinking of getting rid of our amphibs. Already bad enough having sold one to Oz…

  3. The RN needs to procure another one or preferably, an Ocean analog IMO… Perhaps the RAN would be willing to crossdeck with the RN with one of their new Canberras? If the RN paid for the operational and manpower costs during a “lease” of the ship to HMG it would seem to be a win win situation for both governments. The RN doesn’t have to build an LHA, the RAN can fully man both Canberras retaining trained crew and with what appears to be increasing UK naval activity East of Suez (cough cough QE CSG deployment) the integration training between them would be priceless.

    Far fetched – yes… I await punishment and banning from the PTB… 😀

    Aloha!

    • I don’t see any reason why the RN would lease a Canberra off the RAN when they only have two and have been plagued with issues. France has already offered to let Royal Marines deploy onboard the mistral class I’m sure they be more than happy to lease one of them if it saved them running costs.

      • What issues has the RAN had with the Canberra’s BB85?
        Helions, you’re right, we should replace Ocean. There’s no way we’re going to risk the QEs as helicopter carriers near the shore in wartime. There’s no way we would have put a QE into San Carlos Water. But we can’t afford it and more importantly, we can’t man it. So cross decking with allies and operating jointly is the way ahead for us….

        • Why would we have put a helo carrier close to shore the idea is the helos give you t the ability to stand off and keep the enemy guessing where the landing is going to be. Be it on the coast or behind the defensive line. We didn’t put Hermes or Invinc in San Carlos so why would we do it now with a QE???

          • Gunbuster, Hermes and Invincible were acting as attack carriers. Only helos on board were ASW. They were kept well away from the action. Fearless and Intrepid were sent into San Carlos water. The LSLs of the time also came in close to shore and we know what happened to Galahad. Helicopters have short range and fly slowly, particularly with underslung loads. That is why amphibious ships tend to come in a lot closer to the littoral than a CVS ever would. Basically, an amphibious ship is more ‘expendable’ than a carrier. Also, their landing craft tend to be limited by choppy seas, particularly when heavily laden with vehicles. A QE acting in the helicopter carrier role, basically as an LPH, would never be risked close to shore, except in a permissive environment or in peacetime. It is fanciful to suggest otherwise. So it’s fanciful to suggest that something like Ocean is replaced by a QE, as the MoD and the RN have. We need another LPH to replace Ocean. Otherwise it puts the rest of our amphibious forces operationally at risk.

          • @Sceptical
            I am well aware of where the carriers where. As a baby engineering apprentice I served on a T22 that was Goalkeeping for them at the time . I also served in my final sea job on the Fleet/ Amphip Flagship as a Warrant Officer so i consider my self quite knowledgeable in the world of Amphibiosity!
            A Merlin has a 400+ mile range carrying a lot more troops onboard than the Sea King Commando’s. If you lily pad to a closer in vessel such as an LPD which can take 2 Merlin/Chinook on its Flight deck at a time you can refuel and increase the range. You can land on a T23 or T45 to refuel…you could even HIFR if you wanted to.
            LCUs and LCVPs dont like really rough weather. I chucked my ring up in bad weather when on an LCU and I wasnt the only one…it was a miserable few hours for all onboard…cold, wet and spew does not a good mix make.
            The STOM set up allows you to sit a ways off shore whilst landing forces. The timings and control of craft is managed along with the load out to ensure whats needed gets to where its needed.
            Nowadays we are not going to go against an enemy unless we sanitise a 1-200 mile corridor along the coast of opposition using our own air assets. Then send in the helos, Raiders and LCU/VPs to raid and secure the bridgehead before putting more assets ashore.
            Using a QE to do this is do-able. Helos and an LPH have limited lifting capacity and cannot carry heavy items ashore. For that you need LPDs. At the moment no OCEAN replacement is on the horizon so the RN is making the best with what its got which is a QE carrier .
            Hopefully in future the LPH/LPD replacement will combine the two jobs. However as I have stated many times, a combined replacement has advantages and disadvantages. To overcome these I believe you would need at least 3 possibly 4 vessels to be able to carry the same lane meterage of heavy equipment that is carried now. Somehow I cannot see that happening

    • The RN needs to procure another one

      They had one (RFA Largs Bay) from 2006 to 2011 and then the MOD sold it to the Australians whi renamed it HMAS Choules

      • Yep. If we could crew it then persuading the RAN to part with HMAS Choules would make a lot of sense. We have the training and logistics components in place for 3 Bay Class already so the 4th one returning home would slot right in whereas HMAS Choules is a fleet of one in the RAN. I wonder if a reasonable price could be negotiated that might persuade the RAN to sell her back.

  4. I agree BB, I know that quite a few UK personnel and a good deal of equipment are currently successfully deployed on one of the Mistrals. I was thinking in terms of increased cooperation and integration between the RAN and the RN since it appears that the UK will be having quite a bit more presence in that region.

    Also as one poster noted in the carrier thread, the shortage of RN escorts for the QEs could be alleviated by the use of allied hulls to provide some of them – I believe the example used was a QE escorted by a RAN destroyer and a RDN frigate… A high degree of interoperability and a relatively common culture already exists between the RN, RAN, RCN, RNZN, and the USN. Why not take advantage of, and improve on it?

    Aloha!

  5. Too bad the Mounts Bay and her sisters weren’t built with a hangar. (I have 20/20 hindsight).

    • hindsight is not needed. They were equipped with large helicopter pads and so a hanger must have been by default considered during design and no doubt discounted due to price. Almost certainly the same with the Albions. We have a bad habit of cost cutting on ‘cheap capabilities’ in order to afford more shinny expensive toys, that ultimately result in big gaps. As seen in pretty much every conflict we have been in, cost saving on basic kit results in loss of lives.

      • Your last sentence is unfortunately true. A hangar could be installed at a major refit though.

      • Can it be cross-decked fairly easily so that the Bay that needs it the most at any given time can get it fitted before deploying and then potentially relinquish it on return from deployment?

  6. Should we not just order a mistral class or 2 for ourselves?
    Or get a bay mark 2 built with a hangar and better flight facilities. Ocean was an incredible asset for disaster relief and we need something comparable and improved on oceans capabilities to support amphibious operations and disaster relief.
    Fund it from foreign aid budget as they are using military resources to support disaster relief.

    • There were two going spare not so long ago. Brand spanking new Mistrals ready built and ready to go. Had to change all the writing from Cyrillic to Roman but that’s not a problem. Egyptians have bought them now no doubt at a very good price. If Egypt can do it why can’t we? I suspect because it would beg comments such as “I thought you told us you needed the carriers because you would use them in part as helicopter carriers and for humanitarian relief. So why are you now buying some more helicopter carriers?” You know what our wonderful media are like. Also I suspect the Egyptians can find the sailors to man them. We can’t…

    • For disaster relief, if the design is good, a 4th vessel tacked onto the MARS SSS build and funded from the aid budget might be an option. The design costs are presumably all costed into the initial £1bn-for-3 order so hopefully an additional vessel added to the build would be less than £333m extra to build it.

      By definition the next SSS should have huge capacity to carry disaster relief supplies and it would be an extra vessel that could be used for its primary supply role if required due to heightened tension or actual war somewhere.

      An SSS is never going to have the same number of landing slots as a Mistral, Ocean or Canberra but hangar-wise apparently (i.e. according to Wikipedia) the Canberra class for instance can only house 8 medium helicopters in its dedicated hangar, it uses an optional expansion into the light vehicle deck to increase that capacity to 18. That is the sort of design flexibility, i.e. reconfigurable storage spaces, that I am really hoping will be in the new SSS design.

      Additionally, if the rumours of the new SSS design being about 40,000t are true (and given the size of the Tides that sounds plausible) there should also be space to allocate an area for a sophisticated core hospital facility (operating theatres, scanners, ICU beds etc) with the ability to add additional lower intensity beds in certain configurable storage areas as well. If SSS had that flexibility a 5th hull could even be added as an Argus replacement.

    • Ah, but you’re our peculiar UK constraint. That article lists USS Lewis B. Puller at 90,000 tons. I think that there’s an unwritten rule over here in the UK than no new RN or RFA ship can be more than 64,999 tons for at least a couple of decades otherwise we won’t be able to say that the QECs are the biggest ships that the RN has ever built :-).

      I suppose there are a couple of tactics that might be used get around the problem, firstly RFA is not technically RN and secondly they would be conversions so not technically built from scratch.

      For the avoidance of doubt – the above was light-hearted banter. I’m not really putting up a 65,000 ton limit as barrier. In any case, QE’s weight seems to change by the day depending on what article I’m reading.

      • Perhaps they could modify a SIXTY FOUR thousand ton tanker… 😀 Julian, I have NO doubt some Monty Pythonish bureaucrat somewhere deep within the bowels of the MOD would raise that point and successfully have it implemented… 😀

        I can already hear that theme song playing – or is it Bennie Hill’s?

        Aloha!

        • The Puller is big and ugly. I have been up close to it and it looks like the bastard miss match of a tanker and heli deck.its aviation set up is reminicient of the RFA Reliance which trailed the Arapaho conversion in the 70s.
          Cubby manned for the most part with a military augmented crew for helps and the other military equipment they have on board.

          • Combined with these:

            https://news.usni.org/2016/08/10/westpac-prepositioning-ships-making-slow-but-steady-progress-in-seabasing

            They are our version of the PLA’s glorified sandbars – only ours are mobile and they will have to come looking for them. Despite arming their sandbars, they really are are just fixed sacrificial targets with no ability to really get under ground due to their actual composition (sand). I would also be interested to see how they will weather those famous SCS typhoons overs the long term.

            Both the sea base and the transfer dock are limited by their slow speed but at least they can move. Also both are large enough to receive a significant amount of defensive weaponry in the future (note the Puller has been commissioned as a warship).

            one of the issues they are still working out is figuring how to transfer successfully in higher sea states – that includes the fast expeditionary transports as well. I’m sure they will. The PLAN must think they will be useful since they are (as usual) copycat building their own.

            Aloha!

    • Interesting Hellions. Didn’t you guys try something similar many years ago with something called ARAPAHO? Don’t think it was very successful at the time…

      • You’re right SR,

        however I believe the concept was for aircraft maintenance and convoy ASW protection during the Cold War. Apparently cost prohibitive and OBE as the Cold War ended.

        https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/arapaho.htm

        I think the difference here is that the seabasing concept is based on purpose built hulls with a different (but obviously at times overlapping) COO. The seabases are transfer, staging, and jumping off points primarily while the ARAPAHO concept was more in line with traditional CVE convoy escort duties / maintenance carrier concept ala HMS Unicorn IMO.

        “Everything Old is New Again”!

        Aloha

        Cheers!

  7. I read with interested: “It is expected that RFA Mounts Bay will remain forward deployed for up to three years in the Caribbean.”

    It sounds like after last year’s Hurricane Irma and Maria, someone has finally decided that the UK needs to do better than scrape the barrel every year for an OPV or RFA that can be deployed to the Windies for c.5 months. Is she carrying any guns? A couple of 30mm cannon wouldn’t go amiss.

    I’m a great fan of the Bay’s, whilst rarely used in the role they were built for, they are proving to be highly versatile ships and great value for money. The sale of the brand new Largs Bay to Australia for just A$100m, half the price she had cost to build (and only slightly more than a Batch 2 River!), was a typical MOD false economy.

    • I agree although, having just read the more recent article and seen the picture of RFA Cardigan Bay visiting Qatar, I will break the general mood of Bay-Class-fandom (and I am a fan) with one negative comment. They sure are ugly!

      • It seems that RFA Cardigan Bay will be deployed to the Arabian Gulf for several more years. So that leaves only Lyme Bay – fresh out of refit – available for amphibious duties. She recently took part Exercise Joint Warrior 18 and I assume that she will be heavily involved in Saif Sareea III late this year.

    • Rbeedall, I’ve seen a picture of one of the Bays with two Phalanx CIWS, port and starboard amidships…

      • I expect that is that an old pic. Check out pics of the same ship a year later and she may have nothing heavier than a GPMG!

        The RN currently has 24(?) Phalanx mounts, it may not be often that any of these are available for the Bay’s after higher priority needs are met – the QEC, T45’s, Albion’s, RFA Fort Victoria, other RFAs.

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