Last weekend we were visited by HMS Gloucester and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary fleet tanker RFA Black Rover. Gloucester is on patrol in the area, managing the security of the waters around the Falkland Isles and South Georgia Island. As part of her tour of duty she brought with her Commander Thicknesse, who is Commander of British Armed Forces, South Atlantic. They stayed all weekend, and it was a fantastic opportunity for the crews to come ashore. They are closing on the end of an 8 month tour of duty, and all the lads I spoke to were missing their wives and girlfriends. They were all grateful of the chance to come ashore and go walking in the hills around the base. The weather was (for most parts) nice and the sun shone. The boating team (mainly Ashley as duty cox that week) were flat out ferrying troops (literally) too and from the ship, which was anchored in Cumberland Bay. Monday it was my turn, and I suppose I ran perhaps 15 or so runs to and from the ship. Our twin engined RIBs are usually good for 28 knots in suitable sea conditions but in the morning, just after the ship had finished conducting flying sorties with the Lynx, I bought the rib alongside Gloucester's boarding ladder and boarded 6 Royal Marines plus some kit. Despite moving the lads to the optimal positions on board for trim we couldnt get on the plane and did 9 knots all the way ashore... they were hefty to say the least!
|The Jet Launch coming away from Gloucester|
I was fortunate enough to be invited aboard Gloucester for a tour by Tom, the Principal Weapons Officer. Tom was a salt of the earth yorkshireman with 26 years service behind him, and was still enthusiastic about his ship. HMS Gloucester is a Royal Navy Type 42 Destroyer. Launched in 1982, the Gloucester has seen active service in many different areas, most notably during the 1st Iraqi conflict in 1991 when she was escorting USS Missouri along the Kuwaiti coast. The Missouri was bombarding the coast with her 16" guns when the Iraqis returned fire with a "Seesucker" missile which was headed straight for the US Warship. The Gloucester engaged and fired 2 "Sea Dart" missiles which hit the incoming Seesucker, saving the Americans from a direct hit. It is the only recorded missile to missile hit in naval history. I was lucky enough to be shown the missile silo in the bowels of the ship during my tour. The Sea Darts are huge and weigh 550Kgs. It is quite unbelievable that it will be travelling at Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) as it leaves the launcher and once the ramjet engine is engaged will cruise at around Mach 2.5 (~2000 mph) Its guidance system will deliver it to a target up to 30 nautical miles away. I was also shown Gloucesters other weapons including her 4.5" foredeck mounted cannon (a BIG gun) and my personal favourite the "Phalanx" a radar guided 20mm Gatling gun. Gloucester is now coming to the end of her British Service. She is being offered for sale at a price of £5 million. A bargain except when you consider the £15 million running costs per annum. The Pakistani Navy are currently favourite for being the new owners.
|RFA Black Rover|
RFA Black Rover is part of the Fleet Auxiliary which is the civilian contingent of the Royal Navy's at sea presence. Rover is a fleet tanker and its her job to liaise with Coalition Warships and undertake what is known as a "RAS" or "Replenishment at sea" This entails a skilful piece of ship handing and seamanship from both the warship and the tanker as they have to pace only yards away from each other at speed while lines are connected between the vessels and ammunition, fuel, water and food supplies are transferred. The Black Rover has a busy schedule, and did not stay for long. Here are some pictures. Sorry for the delay in posting, but you probably understand why.