HMS Ocean sailed this morning from Plymouth on a 6.5-month deployment as part of the inaugural Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) (JEF(M)) Task Group.
The UK’s Fleet Flagship will form part of the task group commanded by Commodore Andrew Burns (Commander Amphibious Task Group), deploying to the Mediterranean and Middle East before returning home in March next year.
The ship, with 900 personnel onboard, has embarked the command element and a company of Plymouth-based 42 Commando Royal Marines as well as helicopters from 845 Naval Air Squadron, 662 Squadron Army Air Corps and 27 Squadron Royal Air Force.
This inaugural JEF(M) deployment will demonstrate the ability to project a highly effective UK maritime component anywhere in the world, whilst reassuring our allies of the UK’s commitment to the stability of the Middle East.
The Task Group consists of HMS Bulwark (with Commander Amphibious Task Group and Commander 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines embarked) , Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay and the UK’s strategic Motor Vessel Eddystone Point and will carry out exercises with partner nations in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Ocean. HMS Ocean will provide the command ship for Commodore Andrew Burns when he takes charge of Combined Task Force 50, working directly for Commander US 5th Fleet for a period of 3 months at the end of the year.
Captain Rob Pedre, Captain of HMS Ocean, said: “It is a great privilege to be in command of the Fleet Flagship and to deploy with my ship’s company and embarked force on operations today. I am in command of a truly joint defence asset with Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and RAF personnel onboard and we will work together to deliver success for the Joint Expeditionary Force.
“This deployment is the culmination of a year of hard work for the ship and HMS Ocean’s ship’s company have worked tirelessly to get us to sea today; I am very proud of their efforts. There are a mix of emotions throughout the ship; excitement at deploying to do what we joined the Royal Navy to do – go away on operations; nervousness because for some of my sailors and Royal Marines this is the first time they will have been away from home for any length of time – and sadness at leaving loved ones at home.
“I have no doubt that HMS Ocean is ready to take on the challenges of the deployment, delivering operational success over the next six and a half months.”
Commodore Burns said: “This deployment is a hugely important task for the Royal Navy, and for Defence, demonstrating our ability to deploy and operate worldwide, engaging closely with our allies and standing ready for whatever a deployment to an area of strategic interest to the UK can present. I know that all of the units under my command are ready to make the most of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”
The UK’s largest operational warship, HMS Ocean sailed at 7.45am todayg and will be joined by other members of the JEF(M) Task Group tomorrow. As she sailed out of Devonport her crew lined the upper deck and were waved off by families and friends from Devil’s Point and the Hoe.
With aircraft and crew from 845 Naval Air Squadron (Yeovilton); 662 Army Air Corps (Wattisham) and 27 Squadron RAF (Odiham) embarked as well as Royal Marines from 42 Commando (Bickleigh), HMS Ocean demonstrates her utility as a truly Joint Command and Control platform. Sailing with 900 personnel onboard the ship will near her capacity of 1,100 personnel at certain points throughout the deployment.
The ship will be largely self sufficient and will have to provide all the support required for a small town including feeding, engineering support, medical care, provision of water and electricity and, of course, communications support.
Within the 400 core crew is Petty Officer (Catering Services) John Wicking who said: “I am delighted to be going to sea again in HMS Ocean and am looking forward to reaching 6,000 sea days in January 2017. During my 37 years in the Royal Navy I have enjoyed every deployment, onboard ships and submarines, and there is nothing better than delivering operational capability around the world. Today is also tinged with sadness as this is likely to be the last time I deploy for any length of time before I retire. HMS Ocean and her ship’s company are ready in all respects to make the most of the challenges and opportunities during JEF.’’
HMS Ocean is a helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship, designed to deliver troops to the centre of the action by helicopter or by landing craft. Aviation capabilities include six helicopter operating spots on her flight deck with space in the hangar to hold, transport and maintain many more aircraft. Ocean’s crew includes 9 Assault Squadron Royal Marines (9 ASRM), who operate the four Mk5 landing craft vehicle and personnel (LCVP), and provide fighting capability ashore. The 21,500 tonne amphibious assault ship has a top speed of 16 knots and a range of 8,000 miles.
HMS Ocean is the Royal Navy’s largest operational ship is at five days notice to sail to anywhere in the world that she may be needed. HMS Ocean provides the UK government’s most flexible and agile ship.