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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

£65 Million Takes UK’s Dedicated Helicopter Carrier to 2018

By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor

During times of austerity it is good to see that the occasional commitment by government to an asset that has played a significant role in a variety of activities since being commissioned into active service in 1998.

HMS Ocean, currently the largest Royal Navy warship afloat until the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth class carriers in the latter part of this decade, will receive a £65-million upgrade taking around 15 months. Although designed to support amphibious landing operations, by helicopter and landing craft, the warship has been active throughout most of her service to date.

This will be the ship’s second period of down time following a refit in 2007. This should take her through to the end of service life scheduled for 2018. As a helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean can take a variety of up to 18 aircraft onboard.

One of HMS Ocean’s early roles was as part of the Royal Navy Task Force in Operation Telic against Iraq in 2003. During the deployment the ship was home to the following: 10 Sea King HC4s from 845 NAS, six Gazelle AH1s from 847 NAS, and six Lynx from 847 NAS. These aircraft would subsequently be involved in the land effort taking on Saddam Hussain’s forces in the battle for Basra (ref: Armed Action, by Lt. Com. James Newton DFC).

The role that HMS Ocean played in Operation Unified Protector, the mission against Col. Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, included acting as a base for the 4 Regiment Army Air Corps’ Apache attack helicopters. Although playing a relatively small part in contrast to the total air campaign, the Apaches had a very high success rate during their attacks on land-based targets in a high threat environment. Eventually up to six AAC Apaches operated from the ship. This was the first time that UK Apaches had deployed operationally from a maritime home base.

Other helicopters to use the warship include Sea King Mk 7 airborne surveillance and control helicopters (SKASaC) of 857 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) and Lynx Mk 7 of 847 NAS. It is expected that Merlin AW101 helicopters will operate from HMS Ocean once she returns from refit—and when the aircraft have been transferred from RAF to Commando Helicopter Force control.

Recently HMS Ocean was moored in the River Thames to act as home to RN and AAC Lynx helicopters that were part of the aerial protection force guarding London’s 2012 Olympic Games. The upgrade is the largest to be undertaken by Devenport’s Royal Dockyard in over 20 years. The refurb will involve more than 300 specialists from main contractor Babcock, together with an expected 300 additional jobs from up to 70 contractors.
Related: Military News

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