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HMS Bulwark prepares for major deployment

15 September 2016
The amphibious warship HMS Bulwark is sailing on Monday (19 September) to lead a major operational deployment to the Adriatic and Arabian Seas.

Plymouth-based HMS Bulwark has spent the last four weeks preparing for this autumn’s annual Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) (JEF) deployment with a combination of training off the SW Coast and essential maintenance alongside in Devonport Naval Base.

Captain James Parkin, the ship’s commanding officer of said: “My sailors and Royal Marines have put everything into making sure that Bulwark is ready to deploy and I am proud of all the work they have put in to reach this stage.

"I am confident that my people and my ship are ready to meet any challenge thrown at us in our demanding and exciting future programme, and we look forward to embarking the Commander of the Amphibious Task Group, and his staff, to lead the British Armed Forces’ major operational deployment of 2016.”

The four week package of trials, training, and tactics was designed to ensure HMS Buklwark was both ready to deploy on time and capable of any emergent tasking.

The first items on the agenda were vital engineering tests - including full power trials for the ship’s power and propulsion system together with tests of all the ships weapons and sensors, to check they were operating at peak performance. 

My sailors and Royal Marines have put everything into making sure that Bulwark is ready to deploy and I am proud of all the work they have put in to reach this stage.

Captain James Parkin

One 4 hour period was particularly demanding for the ship’s Weapon Engineers, with every weapon on the ship fired, including four ‘anti-air’ target shoots for the ship’s two “Goalkeeper” Close-In Weapons Systems mountings; possibly the last firings by the venerable weapons system in Royal Navy history. 

Petty Officer Dave Furner, one of the Weapon Engineering Technicians on board said: “It is only by firing the weapons and loading the systems in peacetime, that we know that we will be ready, in case they need to be used in wartime.” 

With all systems proven, the ship participated in one final demanding ‘Thursday War’ scenario under the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation, with everyone on board practising their combat skills in realistic scenarios, whilst experiencing the challenges of intense damage control and fire fighting exercises. 

The Royal Marines of the ship’s own 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines were detached onto the shores of North Devon, practising amphibious beach landings with elements of the Royal Marines Lead Commando Group with two weeks of landing craft operations. 

Major John Wall, Second-in-Command of 4 ASRM, said: “It is comparatively rare to conduct such intense training in relatively benign conditions,” he said, “but it all went like clockwork, and we are now ready to deploy.”

Aviation training included the Fleet Air Arm’s Merlin “Junglie” helicopters from RNAS Yeovilton, and the RAF Chinooks from RAF Odiham.  Over two days, HMS Bulwark conducted 143 day and night landings to give the pilots more experience of operating from a ship the size of the ship, as well as giving the ship’s flight deck crew and bridge team time to hone their deck landing and aircraft handling skills.

Naval Airman (Aircraft Handler) Luke Williams said, “The past three weeks have been a busy period for aviation on board, but it has been hugely rewarding and we are all now looking forward to deploying on JEF.”

The ship is now embarking over 250 additional sailors, marines, soldiers and civilians, who will spend the next few months on board.

The ship will return to the UK before Christmas and commence the process of handing over duties as Fleet Amphibious Flagship to her sister ship HMS Albion.

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