Shoreham goes Top Gun in the Gulf

Crew of minehunter HMS Shoreham welcomed a Top Gun aboard their ship in the Gulf.

Less than a month after taking command of the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, Vice Admiral Samuel J Paparo Jr made the short trip from ‘America’ (as Brits dub the US base) to the UK Naval Support Facility to learn about the role of our minehunters in the region.

An aviator by trade, with 6,000 hours in F-14, F-15 and F/A-18 jets under his belt as well as 1,100 carrier landings, the American senior officer is also a graduate of the US Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Programme – better known as Top Gun.

Joining him for the visit to HMS Shoreham was the senior RN officer in the Middle East, Commodore Dean Bassett, UK Maritime Component Commander and Commander Richard Talbot, in charge of Britain’s mine warfare forces in Bahrain (Shoreham, recently-arrived sister HMS Penzance, HMS Chiddingfold and Brocklesby, plus command/mother ship RFA Cardigan Bay).

They work side-by-side in particular with the US Navy’s four Avenger-class ships, also stationed in Bahrain, as well as regional navies – including the Royal Saudi which also operates Sandown-class ships like Shoreham.

In 40-degree heat, the Vice Admiral received a socially-distanced tour of Britain’s youngest minehunter, with masked briefs from the crew regarding the capabilities of the ship’s dive team (who identify and neutralise mines), their compression chamber which can be used to negate the effects of decompression sickness.

The divers then plunged into the murky waters of Mina Salman from Shoreham’s sea boat to conduct hull surveys of the 172ft vessel as a demonstration for their American guest.

Mine warfare specialist Petty Officer Matthew Routliffe outlined the uses of the Seafox submersible and the ship’s Variable Depth Sonar – it detaches from the hull and can be lowered to locate mines in deep waters, a capability unique to the class.

The vice admiral was very interested in our capabilities, and we were more than happy to share our knowledge with him. The US Navy is an important partner in the region and I’m looking forward to future opportunities to work with them.

Mine warfare specialist Petty Officer Matthew Routliffe

“The vice admiral was very interested in our capabilities, and we were more than happy to share our knowledge with him. The US Navy is an important partner in the region and I’m looking forward to future opportunities to work with them,” said the 32-year-old senior rating.

The visit concluded with Vice Admiral Paparo signing the ship’s visitor book and exchanging ship’s coins with the Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Richard Kemp, before proceeding ashore to view the rest of the UK base.