Team Portsmouth effort puts destroyers in UK strike groups

HMS Defender arrives home to HM Naval Base Portsmouth today having exercised with HMS Queen Elizabeth and her multinational strike group honing UK aircraft carrier operations.

She is one of three Type 45 destroyers to have been drilling their core skills as peerless air-defence escorts at a time the Royal Navy has deployed two strike groups to the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Defender’s sisters, HMS Diamond and Dragon remain at sea; Diamond moving onto several weeks of operational sea training having been with Defender off Scotland, and Dragon is in the Black Sea having accompanied Royal Navy flagship HMS Albion through the Mediterranean, testing the new littoral strike group concept. 

Putting the three destroyers to sea for escort duties, as well as frigate HMS Kent and HMS Queen Elizabeth, has been a notable success for everyone working at the base at a time when Covid-restrictions were disrupting regular activity.

Defender returned to the UK just days before the lockdown began in March, following a hectic deployment to the Gulf, while Diamond and Dragon both emerged from maintenance periods during the pandemic. All the deployments were only possible with uniformed personnel, civil servants and industry melding together to sustain a high-performing naval base; providing the maintenance, security, tug assistance, harbour control and logistics to keep warships on the move despite the many challenges the nation faced.

 

Following a rewarding high-tempo seven and a half month operational deployment to the Middle East, it was a challenging time for the Ship’s Company to find the UK in lockdown when we returned in March, particularly as it meant that in many cases some of our sailors weren’t able to see their family and friends for close to a year. The Ship’s Company, in partnership with BAE, soon set about the task of completing the necessary post-deployment maintenance to get HMS Defender back to sea.

Commanding Officer of HMS Defender, Commander Vince Owen

Despite working in the close confines of a warship during the epidemic, this maintenance work was still completed on time by adapting procedures and following Public Health England and MOD Covid guidelines, including maintaining cleanliness and introducing social distancing measures onboard.

Cdr Owen added: “This enabled both the Ship’s Company and contractors to remain safe whilst achieving everything that needed to be completed in order to allow HMS Defender to sail on time for a trials period in June, followed by a six-week Basic Operational Sea Training package.

“Following Summer leave and a new paint job it’s great to have been back at sea continuing our training by integrating into the UK Carrier Strike Group for the first time in preparation for next year’s exciting deployment.”

Jon Pearson, Warship Support Director for BAE Systems in Portsmouth, said: “It’s been a challenging few months for us supporting Royal Navy operations in Portsmouth Naval Base. However, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, BAE Systems teams have continued to work hard to ensure the availability of the surface fleet. This includes preparing four warships to take part in the carrier strike autumn group exercise.

“I’m particularly proud of all the teams who have now helped get three of the Royal Navy’s most complex warships, HMS Defender, HMS Dragon and HMS Diamond, out to sea. Their dedication and expertise ensures that these key ships continue to serve and represent the nation in key operations.”