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No more Turbulent times in the Silent Service as submarine prepares to decommission

HMS Turbulent


The proud and distinguished career of nuclear submarine HMS Turbulent comes to an end in Devonport on Saturday as she’s formally decommissioned after 29 years’ service. The one-time Cold War warrior famously hammered Saddam Hussein’s defences in 2003 with her cruise missiles and enjoyed the rare glow of publicity last year when her final major deployment featured on a TV documentary.

It will also be an opportunity for me to offer my and the Royal Navy’s gratitude for the hard work the men of Turbulent have provided me and my predecessors over recent years.
Commander Nicholas Wheeler

Turbulent times in the Royal Navy come to an end on Saturday – and that’s something to commemorate.

After 29 years’ proud, loyal and resilient service one of the nation’s stalwart safeguards – and avengers, when required – bows out of the Fleet as HMS Turbulent decommissions in her home of Devonport.

The boat’s sponsor from launch at Barrow on the first day of December 1982 to the last day of her active life has been Lady Cassidi, who will be guest of honour at Saturday’s farewell.

She’ll be joined by previous commanding officers and family and friends of the submarine and crew over the years as they give thanks for all who served in ‘Turbs’ – and all those ashore who have supported them.

Designed and built at the height of the Cold War, Turbulent was designed to hunt – and destroy – enemy submarines before they could launch any nuclear missile strikes, hence the ‘hunter-killer’ tag.

The end of the Cold War saw the boat’s role evolve into wider duties including intelligence gathering, landing small commando units, and, with the advent of Tomahawk cruise missiles, launch strikes against enemy land targets – something Turbulent did to potent effect in the 2003 Iraq campaign.

Since being commissioned in 1984 Turbulent has been deployed on patrols as far apart as the North Atlantic and Far East, and saw service in the Adriatic during the Balkans conflict. Most recently, she completed a marathon east of Suez deployment: 268 days in the Indian Ocean in support of Britain’s long-standing east of Suez mission. She also joined in operations off Libya – although on this occasion was not called upon to fire her Tomahawks – and conducted other operations and exercises, visiting Souda Bay, Fujairah, Bahrain, Goa and Aqaba in the process.

A sizeable portion of that deployment was captured on film for a Channel 5 documentary Royal Navy Submarine Mission, giving the public a very rare insight into life aboard a modern boat on operations.

Since that mission ended just before Christmas, Turbulent has undergone a spot of maintenance before resuming her Silent Service duties.

The boat’s final Commanding Officer, Cdr Nicholas Wheeler, said her decommissioning would

"Provide a memorable opportunity to officially decommission Turbulent from her fleet life.

"It will also be an opportunity for me to offer my and the Royal Navy’s gratitude for the hard work the men of Turbulent have provided me and my predecessors over recent years. It will be an honour to have Lady Cassidi attend the event as ship’s sponsor after many years of unfaltering support.”

Although the White Ensign will be lowered for the final time on Saturday it will be around 18 months before the very last crew member leaves the boat as the process of removing equipment and making all systems safe is completed.

The submarine will eventually go into 3 Basin awaiting dismantling – a process which is the subject of a public consultation process by the MOD.

There she’ll join the boat which gave the Trafalgar-class its name; she paid off at the end of 2009. There remain five T-boats on active service, with the youngest, HMS Triumph, due to conduct patrols until 2022.

The entire class of T-boats is being replaced by the seven hunter-killers of the Astute-class submarines which are in the process of entering service.

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