Plymouth-based HMS Chatham sailed this morning from her base port of Devonport, Plymouth, for a seven-month deployment to patrol the waters around the Gulf of Aden, the Horn of Africa and the Somali Basin.
The ship’s commanding officer, Commander Simon Huntington, said: “HMS Chatham is deploying to the Middle East to join NATO forces in the fight against piracy as part of the international effort to improve maritime security in the region.
“We are fully trained for the task and our ship is extremely well equipped for the challenges that we will face. This will be a demanding operational deployment and it is always difficult being separated from families and loved ones for such a long time, but we are firmly focussed on the task ahead and are now eager for HMS Chatham to take on this important role, which we have spent many months preparing for.”
During her deployment, the Type 22 frigate will be the UK Flagship to the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) and the group’s commander Commodore Steve Chick. HMS Chatham will also become the lead vessel for Operation Ocean Shield, the NATO contribution to counter piracy operations off Somalia.
The ship began maritime security operations as soon as she left Devonport to protect the UK ‘s shipping and maritime trade routes by deterring illegal activity and monitoring other vessels for any suspicious activity, as she makes her way through the Mediterranean and east of the Suez Canal.
HMS Chatham will join other ships in the NATO task group, including warships from Spain, Turkey , Greece and the USA, to patrol round the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden. This is a vital area for maritime trade, covering strategic shipping routes from both the Far and Middle East continuing through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal en route to Europe. HMS Chatham will be monitoring these vital supply lines whilst also providing a reassuring presence in the area.
In the busy year leading up to this deployment HMS Chatham undertook maintenance, including time in dry-dock, before completing an intensive series of sea trials to prove her systems and equipment.
The latter part of 2009 was spent completing demanding training under the close scrutiny of staff from Flag Officer Sea Training in Devonport; this ensured her crew is ready for any task, ranging from peacekeeping and humanitarian aid to conflict. The crew used Christmas to complete final preparations and to take well-earned leave before departure.
HMS Chatham was laid down in 1986 and launched in 1988 and is the last of four Type 22 frigates. She is 150m long, has a crew of 250 and displaces 5,300 tonnes. She is capable of engaging targets above, on or below the sea surface with anti-air and anti-missile Sea Wolf missiles, anti-ship Harpoon missiles, anti-submarine Stingray torpedoes and a Lynx helicopter. She is also fitted with a variety of guns of up to 4.5-inch bore, advanced radars, sonars, computer systems and communications equipment. Powered by gas turbine engines, HMS Chatham can sprint at speeds of up to 30 knots. She is the seventh Royal Navy ship to bear the name.
Photos by Leading Naval Photographer James Crawford.