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Richmond completes Red Sea mission as Diamond resumes patrols

13 March 2024
After nearly six weeks in harm’s way – ending with the blooding of her air defence missile system – HMS Richmond has handed Red Sea responsibilities back to destroyer HMS Diamond.

The Plymouth-based frigate took over Operation Prosperity Guardian duties from the Portsmouth destroyer at the beginning of February.

The international operation provides protection and reassurance to commercial shipping in the southern Red Sea in particular, where attacks by Houthi rebels with missiles and drones have increased five fold since the autumn and the Israeli-Gaza conflict.

Like their comrades on Diamond before her, Richmond’s 200-strong crew – sailors, Royal Marines and Fleet Air Arm personnel responsible for the frigate’s Wildcat helicopter – have been heavily engaged, demanding long hours at Action Stations/increased readiness, which means wearing anti-flash clothing, stress, snatching quick meals when they can, and lack of sleep.

Diamond during her patrols over Christmas and January was called upon to take action against aerial threats.

Richmond wasn’t… until the weekend when her Sea Ceptor system was required to down two incoming Houthi drones – the first time the missile system (mainstay of the current and future frigate fleet) has been used in anger.

Take hostile 6255. Take hostile 7357.

Ceptor engaging.

Unlike Sea Viper on HMS Diamond, there’s no flash of fire on the bridge to signify missile away.

Instead, a loud whoosh – high pressure gas forces Sea Ceptor out of its silo in the ‘mushroom farm’ on the Type 23’s forecastle before the rocket kicks in at a safe distance from the ship so the flames don’t cause any damage.

Once the solid-fuelled rocket motor kicked in, the missile rapidly accelerated up to Mach 3 towards its target, a ‘kill’ which took fewer than ten seconds.
Targets destroyed.

Having handed over responsibilities to Diamond, Richmond is paying a short visit to Saudi Arabia before returning home to Plymouth.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I thank the crew of HMS Richmond for their incredible work and am confident that HMS Diamond will continue to stand up for freedom of navigation and the safety of seafarers.

“The UK continues to be at the forefront of the international response to the Houthis’ dangerous attacks on commercial vessels, which have claimed the lives of international mariners.”

Diamond has spent the period out of theatre in Gibraltar, restocking ammunition and supplies, undergoing maintenance and allowing down time for her crew, many of whom flew home to the UK having missed Christmas/New Year with their families due to the mission in the Red Sea.

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