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Action-packed autumn as Royal Navy’s Pacific presence enters its second year

7 September 2022
The Royal Navy will continue to highlight its permanent presence in the Pacific region as it weighs into a series of major military exercises from South Korea to northern Australia.

Two UK warships are deployed to the Indo-Asia-Pacific on a five-year mission as part of the UK’s ‘tilt’ towards the region: HMS Tamar and Spey.
 
HMS Tamar will be joined by Royal Navy divers for a large-scale mine warfare exercise off Korea.
 
HMS Spey meanwhile is about to begin the largest military exercise in northern Australia this year, Kakadu 22, followed by combined training in the Philippines, an International Fleet Review in Japan and, for the first time, the premier US-Japanese naval workout in the western Pacific, Keen Sword.
 
It is one year precisely since the sister ships left Portsmouth, since when they have proven their value on numerous levels from reassuring remote British communities to demonstrating resolve with our allies in the region, flown the flag for the UK in a part of the world it has rarely been seen for some time and underlined the nation’s renewed interest it.
 
Tamar has just completed being the first RN vessel to join the US Navy’s principal peace/goodwill mission in the region, Pacific Partnership, which concluded with a mock airliner crash in the Philippines – to test the response of local, national and international authorities and navies.
 
Sailors from Tamar and Philippines Coast Guard personnel were plucked out of the water in the Puerto Princesa Bay on the island of Palawan.
 
"It was fantastic to have HMS Tamar involved in the response to the search and rescue. It highlighted how important it is to exercise with international partners. The exercise was the highlight of our time here in Puerto Princesa,” said Royal Navy Captain Charles Maynard Royal Navy, Deputy Commander of Pacific Partnership 22.
 
The Pacific mission – Operation Woodwall – is regarded as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the four far-flung long-term deployments by the Overseas Patrol Squadron: HMS Forth in the Falklands, Trent in the Mediterranean and West Africa and Medway in the Caribbean.
 
It has already seen the duo help enforce a UN embargo against North Korea, deliver aid to Tonga in the wake of a tsunami, take part in numerous regional exercises from large-scale military workouts, through to the principal peace mission, Pacific Partnership, which ended last month and saw HMS Tamar involved in community projects in Palau and commando engineers build a school in the Philippines.
 
Each ship has sailed around 40,000 nautical miles – just short of twice around the world – during more than 3,500 hours (21 whole weeks) on the move apiece.
 

It was fantastic to have HMS Tamar involved in the response to the search and rescue. It highlighted how important it is to exercise with international partners. The exercise was the highlight of our time here in Puerto Princesa.

Royal Navy Captain Charles Maynard

They’ve visited 17 nations; from the USA and Australia, to the Philippines and city states like Singapore, down to remote island communities such as Palau, or tiny UK territories such as the Pitcairn Islands.
 
Their domain stretches from the eastern seaboard of Africa to the west coast of the USA, although most of the ships’ activities to date have been concentrated in a vast area between Japan in the North, Singapore in the west, Australia in the south and New Zealand in the east… about three times the size of Europe.
 
To sustain the ships on their five-year mission, a portion of the crew changes every few weeks allowing them to enjoy leave and carry out training/courses before flying back out to the Pacific.
 
It keeps the sailors fresh, and the ships themselves on station, with maintenance being undertaken in ports and bases such as Singapore, Darwin and Pearl Harbor.
 
The deployment has also provided amazing opportunities for those onboard, giving sailors access to places beyond the budget and reach of the wealthiest or most adventurous travellers.
 
“The best part is the places we have gone,” says weapons engineer LET Alexander Twidell of HMS Tamar.
 
“Visiting world heritage sites and countries with beautiful landscape such as Palau and the Ngardmau waterfall – places I would never normally get the chance to see.
 
“The worst part is the hardest part of the job, being away from home for milestone events and family.”
 
Distances in time and space from loved ones in home – Singapore (the westernmost port of call so far) is seven hours ahead of the UK, Darwin in Australia nine and a half while Hawaii was 11 hours behind, Pitcairn Island nine – have been spanned to some degree by emails, mobile phones and satellite communications.
 
Communications specialist Leading Engineering Technician Molly Lawton on HMS Tamar said: “Curaçao was the first port call. It was so amazing to go to such a beautiful place, especially as I had never been to a place like that ever before.
 
“Singapore was also amazing as I never thought I would get the chance to go. The Navy has brought me to some other amazing places I would have never been able to visit on my own.”
 

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