Sussex Navy News

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QNLZ back from sea training

HMS Queen Elizabeth has returned home to Portsmouth after ten demanding weeks of sea training around the UK, preparing for her maiden deployment in the new year.

In view of the size and complexity of the carrier, she received a dedicated training package to test the ability of the 1,100 men and women on board to deal with everything they might expect to face in peace and war.  The package, courtesy of FOST (see next item, below), climaxed with 18 simultaneous fire and flood incidents while continuing flying operations .

QNLZ will now undergo planned maintenance in Portsmouth before task group training later in the year, which will also see the ship work with two F-35 squadrons for the first time.  That final package of training, working alongside NATO allies, will confirm her ability to act as a task group flagship, ready to lead a carrier strike force on front-line operations anywhere in the world.

More here.

FOST set-up renamed: FOST

The Flag Officer Sea Training organisation has been renamed Fleet Operational Sea Training.  Still known as FOST, it is under Commodore Andrew Stacey, COM (Commander) FOST.

As well as training Royal Navy and RFA personnel, FOST is also an important source of revenue in training foreign naval crews to handle and fight their vessels; around a third of its work is in this capacity.

More here.

Audit report on Carrier Strike

Government spending watchdog the National Audit Office has reported on the financial and project management of Carrier Strike, the concept centred on the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and Lightning II F-35B jets.  This is NAO’s fifth report on the subject.

Carrier Strike is central to the government’s plans for the country’s armed forces and being able to respond to conflicts and humanitarian emergencies anywhere in the world at short notice, inter-operably with NATO allies.  The NAO report focuses on MoD’s approach to addressing the risks to achieving the capabilities of Carrier Strike.  It does not evaluate those capabilities, or plans for its operational use.

NAO reports that:

Gareth Davies, Comptroller and Auditor General, said:

“The MoD has made good progress with the big-ticket items needed to deliver Carrier Strike, such as the carriers, the first squadron of jets and the new infrastructure.  But it must pay much greater attention to the supporting capabilities needed to make full use of Carrier Strike.

“The MoD also needs to get a firmer grip on the future costs of Carrier Strike.  By failing to understand their full extent, it risks adding to the financial strain on a defence budget that is already unaffordable.”

The BBC quoted a MoD spokesman as saying:

“Carrier Strike is a complex challenge, which relies on a mix of capabilities and platforms.  We remain committed to investing in this capability, which demonstrates the UK’s global role.  Despite the disruptions of Covid-19, the Carrier Strike group is on track for its first operational deployment.”

Report, summary and NAO press release here.

Ex-Sussex P2000 prepares for Gib guard duty

HMS Pursuer, originally a sea tender to Sussex Division RNR and later attached to Sussex URNU, is preparing for duty as a temporary guardian of the Rock.

The aptly-pennanted P273 will over coming weeks work alongside Dasher, also an ex-URNU P2000, replacing the smaller Scimitar and Sabre as part of the Gibraltar Squadron.

More here.

More new power boats for RNR

Following the earlier report of the arrival of new power boats at HMS Calliope at Gateshead, the Maritime Reserves have taken delivery of more boats as part of a transformation to better support the Royal Navy.

Three years ago, “Project Gemini” was established to oversee the introduction into Maritime Reserve service of Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats.  That vision is now a reality, with three units each receiving two high-end specification Gemini RHIBs.  The boats, based at RNR units in Cardiff, Liverpool and Newcastle, will enable maritime training and experience that will strongly enhance the reserves’ support to front line operations at sea.  The training will be based around the RYA Powerboat Scheme, which includes essential skills of seamanship, navigation and radio communications.

Commander Steve Fry, Commanding Officer of HMS Cambria in Cardiff, said:

“The arrival of these boats is hugely welcomed and something my ship’s company has been very excited about, and trained hard for, prior to their arrival.  As HMS Cambria re-locates to a purpose built new unit on 31 July, these boats will enable us to train reservists right in the heart of Cardiff Bay.”

More here.

MoD review of reserve forces

MoD has announced a review examining how defence can best utilise the skills of the reserve forces.

Following the contribution reservists have made across society during Britain’s battle against coronavirus, the Reserve Forces 2030 review (RF30) will aim to establish how best to harness their specialist knowledge and expertise, in particular to support wider government, business and society.

Seeking views from across defence, other government departments, employers and academia in the UK and internationally, the review team will consider ways reserves could contribute to defence and wider government objectives.  The review will also examine how defence can best partner with business and across government to share the cost, skills and expertise.

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said:

“Reservists are an exceptional group of people with specialist skills and expertise in a wide range of sectors.  Their integral role within our nation’s armed forces has been demonstrated once again in the support they have provided during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s crucial that we look towards the future, not only to consider how best to utilise our existing talent but also how we can strengthen the role of reserves for generations to come.”

The MoD announcement concludes:

“The RF30 review team look forward to engaging with you all in the coming months and hearing your views – but in the meantime – if you have ideas about how defence, Her Majesty’s Government and wider society could get greater utility from its reserves out to 2030 then we want to hear from you.”

Comments to the review team can be made here.