Entente Cordiale delivers long-range logistics for HMS Tamar's Pacific mission

Topic: Operational activity Storyline: Pacific Ocean

For the first time the Royal Navy made use of the supply chain supporting its French counterpart to deliver ammunition to one of its patrol ships in the Pacific.

After considerable planning and a 14,000-mile journey, several thousand rounds of ammunition were handed over to HMS Tamar when the ship sailed into the French overseas territory of New Caledonia – half way between Fiji and Australia’s Gold Coast.

Unlike say the Caribbean, Mediterranean or South Atlantic there’s no UK territory in the South Pacific region which can serve as a hub to support front-line warship operations.

Regular supplies – food, fuel and spare parts – can be obtained locally, or shipped out by air freight… but that’s not the case with ammunition; given safety and security issues, you cannot simply hand it over to international cargo firms.

And although Tamar hasn’t fired her guns in anger, crew conduct regular training serials to maintain skills/marksmanship/routines… which denudes ammo stocks.

As well as the main 30mm gun, the ship is equipped with general purpose and heavy machine-guns as well as SA80 and small arms as personal weapons.

Thanks to the Anglo-French naval relationship and connections between London and Paris, the resupply was planned months in advance so that when Tamar arrived in New Caledonia after a few weeks’ patrol around Fiji and Tonga, a comprehensive supply of ammunition was waiting in a container for the logistics team to load aboard.

With the ship coming up to the third anniversary of leaving her home base of Portsmouth, Tamar’s Commanding Officer Commander Tom Gell says “the foundation of this success story is a comprehensive support structure” which has allowed his ship – and HMS Spey operating in similar waters – to forge “ever-closer bonds with partner nations in the region”.

He continued: “Getting munitions across the globe from the UK is a significant endeavour and having the ability to take ammunition in theatre is a massive enabler which has only been made possible as a result of our strong relationship with the French and the Marine Nationale. 

“Although this move delivered a relatively small amount of munitions as proof of concept, it highlights greater potential for future sustainment options.

“The support we have received in New Caledonia from our French partners has been absolutely outstanding.”

This was Tamar’s first time calling on the French island during her long-term patrol of the Indo-Pacific region.

She was welcomed into the capital Nouméa by a French piper, which set the tone for the (entente) cordial nine-day visit, largely focused on diplomacy and interaction/cooperation with the French authorities, which also extended to providing the River-class ship with a spot of maintenance after several weeks of intensive patrolling.

Assisted by local authorities and an embarked boarding team of Royal New Zealand Navy personnel, Tamar’s crew inspected 23 vessels to ensure they were abiding by Fiji’s fishing regulations.

They found numerous discrepancies – from the number of hooks on the line, to trawlers exceeding quotas, thus risking the sustainability of their fishing practices.

While team Tamar didn’t encounter any major breeches the patrols were welcomed by islanders as an important ally in the fight against illegal fishing practices which cost small Pacific nations millions of pounds a year.

The support we have received in New Caledonia from our French partners has been absolutely outstanding.

Commander Tom Gell