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HMS Lancaster swaps crews to sustain Gulf security mission over Christmas

12 December 2023
One crew of HMS Lancaster are home in time for Christmas… and another crew will take charge of the frigate on Middle East patrols over the festive season.

The frigate has completed her latest rotation of crews – 200 sailors at a time – to sustain her operations in the Gulf region.

One crew operates the warship for four months at a time, then trades places (known as a RIP or Roulement in Place) with an entire crew which flies out from the UK and takes charge for the next four months.

It spares Lancaster the lengthy journey home – and need to send out a replacement frigate – and means there’s a frigate on hand to support regional security and protect shipping.

The returning sailors – Port Crew – joined the ship at the height of the Gulf summer since when they have bagged £3m drugs, trained with regional allies and escorted shipping through choke points such as the Strait of Hormuz.

Lancaster spent 1,408 hours (over eight whole weeks) on patrol as she sailed more than 11,500 miles – nearly half-way around the globe, while Port Crew have seen off seven tonnes of spuds, more than 38,000 eggs and over 1,200 tins of baked beans (among other culinary treats).

And her helicopter, callsign Pyro flew more than 7,000 nautical miles (roughly London to the Falklands) – carried out 180 deck landings, including one on the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, safely delivered the medical officer to an allied warship to treat a casualty, and conducted 25 hours of sorties with its ‘weapon wing’ (for Martlet missiles) attached.

No two days have been the same, whether that be conducting counter narcotic operations or escorting merchant vessels through the Strait of Hormuz. The team really does work when everyone comes together to meet the command aim.

Lieutenant Jack Mason

It has been an awesome four months delivering effect in region,” said Officer of the Watch Lieutenant Jack Mason.

“No two days have been the same, whether that be conducting counter narcotic operations or escorting merchant vessels through the Strait of Hormuz. The team really does work when everyone comes together to meet the command aim.”

One afternoon’s relaxation amid the high-tempo of operations allowed for a flight deck barbecue after shipmates had worked up an appetite courtesy of a swim in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

“I finally managed to do a hands to bathe – another Royal Navy bucket list item ticked off. It’s not every day you get to go swimming in 3,000 metres of water,” Lieutenant Mason enthused.

Logistician Leni Milne particularly enjoyed the “familiarisation flights” the Wildcat team laid on for shipmates to give them an idea of what it’s like to operate a cutting-edge naval helicopter.

“Abu Dhabi was definitely the best port visit, adventurous training was provided, as well as sampling the culture, the waterparks and Ferrari World were a great way to unwind!” she added.

“Karachi in Pakistan was a great defence engagement opportunity. Having numerous visitors onboard as well as a local school visit, it was exciting representing the Royal Navy.”

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