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Defender heads west as time in Pacific Ocean comes to an end

HMS Defender and the UK Carrier Strike Group have been on exercises with partner nations in the Pacific Ocean. LPhot Unaisi Luke
27 October 2021
HMS Defender is on her journey back west after finishing a busy schedule in the Pacific Ocean.

The Portsmouth-based destroyer has spent the past couple of weeks conducting training and exercises in the Indo-Pacific region along with other warships in the UK Carrier Strike Group.

This included meeting up with British flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth and partner nations in the Philippine Sea.

Defender sailed with the two US Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan and the Japanese helicopter carrier JS ISE, conducting close manoeuvring and different sailing formations.

Alongside the rest of the Royal Navy, including the task group and those back home in the UK, Defender observed a minute’s silence and laid a wreath to remember the 53 submariners lost at sea aboard Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala.

At the same time HMS Richmond handed over a cheque of £53,000 to the families of those lost. The money was raised through the serving and retired Royal Navy submariner community.

The Type 45 destroyer’s on board ceremony was led by the Logistics and Operations Officers, both previously submariners.

It was then time for Defender to head south, crossing the equator in waters off Indonesia. As is the tradition with Royal Navy ships, a Crossing the Line ceremony was held by 180 of the ship’s company.

This included twins ABs Nathan and Jordan Parfitt. Nathan said: “Royal Navy ships don’t Cross the Line very often so it was great to get the opportunity to do it so early in my career and doing it alongside my brother made it even more memorable.”

Our recent operations in the Indo-Pacific have been extremely rewarding

Commander Vincent Owen, HMS Defender’s commanding officer

Over the course of the deployment, HMS Defender has established a 2,000 club and 3,000 club to recognise the number of days sailors have spent at sea. Since sailing from the UK earlier this year, five personnel have reached the 2,000 sea days milestone and three have passed 3,000 days, including most recently Sub Lieutenant Richard Ellis.

He said: “I love my job but the amount of time away can be difficult, particularly for the families left at home. It means a lot to have this sacrifice recognised.”

As she continued west, Defender completed two firsts for the Carrier Strike Group deployment. The first saw the ship conduct a replenishment at sea of fuel and stores simultaneously with RFA Fort Victoria. While the ship was pumped with fuel, helicopters delivered 18 tonnes of stores, including spare parts and fresh food.

Then, two days later, the ship’s Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron fired a Martlet missile – the first time the lightweight missile has been fired by the Royal Navy on frontline operations.

Commander Vincent Owen, Defender’s commanding officer, said: “Our recent operations in the Indo-Pacific have been extremely rewarding and have shown how we can seamlessly operate with numerous nations.

“I am immensely proud of my ship’s company for everything they have achieved on this deployment so far, despite the challenges of COVID-19.

“There is still much to do before HMS Defender returns to the UK but it is a big milestone to be westward-bound.”

HMS Defender is currently alongside in Mumbai.

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