The Royal Marine who commands UK amphibious forces, praised the Devonport workforce as he opened a new indoor engineering facility for landing craft operated as a key part of the Royal Navy’s amphibious fleet.
Major General Buster Howes (Commandant General Royal Marines) unveiled a name plaque on the renovated building in Devonport Naval Base and congratulated staff from Babcock and the MoD on their enthusiasm, hard work and skills in delivering the new project in 12 months.
He said: “This investment represents a big commitment to support to amphibious forces. As the man in charge of our amphibious forces, I thank you for your enthusiasm and hard work. To bring this to fruition in 12 months is tribute to your skills and dedication. After the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we now have much more confidence in the case for amphibious forces which is good news for the way ahead for you, the Devonport workforce.”
He said amphibious forces were the most responsive political tool, especially when most of the UK’s trade came by sea and most of the politically unstable countries had coastline. The ability to ‘project power’ to coastlines was of paramount importance in protecting the UK’s interests and oil and gas supplies.
The building is a joint venture by Babcock and the MoD Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) to provide a weatherproof facility at Devonport for the refit and maintenance of the fleet of 23 landing craft vehicle personnel carriers. The unit will be used to refit and maintain landing craft under one roof to deliver improved safe and reliable landing craft to the Royal Navy.
The landing craft are used by the Royal Navy’s amphibious ships (HMS Albion, HMS Bulwark, HMS Ocean) by the Royal Marines Assault Squadron 539 ASRM (based at Turnchapel at Plymouth), and the Royal Marines landing craft training units at Poole and Instow in North Devon.
The landing craft are in great demand through the year as one of the key methods for landing weapons, vehicles and forces for operations and exercises by Royal Marines embarked on these ships and need to be available and reliable due to the tough environment they work in.
Previously the landing craft were maintained, repaired and refitted outdoors in various dockside sites or under temporary shelters. This weather-dependent process restricted work programmes and limited the continuous availability of fully maintained landing craft.
Now maintenance periods can be programmed into this specialist building with confidence in timely delivery and allowing more and more time devoted to ensuring landing craft are fully operational and reliable. Up to five landing craft can be worked on at any one time, allowing more frequent maintenance periods to be completed to programme. The facility also enables dedicated teams of engineers, fabricators, electrical fitters and other industrial staff to be sited in one place with accessibility to the best tools and equipment.
A new purpose-built wheeled boat mover has also been designed and built to transport the landing craft into the building through a specially constructed steel cantilever door. The landing craft hulls can also be blasted and painted separately under cover within the building using purpose-built cradles and a dedicated tent.
Provision of this facility forms part of a wider joint MoD/Babcock initiative to develop Devonport as the Centre for Amphibious Support Excellence, referred to as ‘CASE’. Captain Graeme Little (team leader for DE&S Capital Ships In-Service Team) said: “The opening of this facility is a major step change in our ability to deliver high quality support to these craft and demonstrates our joint commitment to delivery of the CASE initiative”.
Captain Ian Shipperley (of Devonort-based DE&S Superintendent Fleet Maintenance ) said: “The facility will be a major step forward in the engineering support to landing craft at Devonport by providing an undercover one-stop shop for all maintenance and repair.”