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HMS Ocean (L12) of the Royal Navy is an Amphibious assault ship (or Landing Platform Helicopter) or Helicopter carrier), the sole member of her class. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force. She is currently the largest ship in the Royal Navy.

She was constructed in the mid-1990s by Kvaerner Govan Ltd on the Clyde and fitted out at Barrow-in-Furnessmarker prior to first of class trials and subsequent acceptance in service. She was commissioned in September 1998 at her home port Devonportmarker, Plymouthmarker, Devonmarker.

HMS Ocean returned from her 27,000-mile (43,500km) TAURUS 09 deployment to the Far East on 3 August 2009.After 4 weeks in port, she is currently conducting various training routines in UK waters.

Construction

An invitation to tender for a new helicopter carrier was issued in February 1992. In February 1993 The Times reported that the carrier faced cancellation due to budgetary constraints. However, at approximately the same time, British forces were engaged in operations in the Balkans, which saw the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's aviation training ship RFA Argus pressed into service as an LPH. Argus proved totally unsuitable in terms of accommodation and facilities needed for a large Embarked Military Force (EMF), which emphasised the need for a purpose built platform. On 29 March 1993 the defence procurement minister announced that development of the new LPH was proceeding.

Two shipbuilders competed for the contract - Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (VSEL) and Swan Huntermarker. On 11 May 1993 the government announced VSEL had won the contract. The build was to commercial standards, reducing costs significantly and leading to a construction spend of £154 million, comparable to that of a Type 23 frigate. VSEL, a warship manufacturer, sub-contracted the build phase to the commercial Kværner yard in Govanmarker, Glasgowmarker.

The fact that VSEL's bid was £71 million lower than Swan Hunter's was the source of political controversy and lead to a National Audit Office investigation to determine whether the competition was fair. The report, published on 29 July 1993, stated that although VSEL did subsidise its bid the MoD was right to award the contract to VSEL because the subsidy was much smaller than the difference between the two bids; VSEL's bid was £139.5 million compared to Swan Hunter's £210.6 million. The Times also suggested that the subsidy was as little as £10 million. In anticipation of the report the Financial Times described the different philosophies adopted by the two bidders; While Swan Hunter viewed the ships as entirely military, "VSEL thought the design was basically a merchant ship with military hardware bolted on." VSEL's decision to sub-contract the build phase took advantage of lower overheads at a civilian yard as well as efficiency drives by its parent, Kværner. The cut-price build to commercial standards means that HMS Ocean has a projected operational life of just 20 years, significantly less than that of other warships.

Launched on 11 October 1995, she was subsequently named at Barrow by Her Majesty the Queen on 20 February 1998, prior to delivery to Devonport.

In her sea trial she managed to reach a top speed of 20.6 knots, however her usual top speed is 18 knots now totally fitted out and with the addition of new equipment.

Service history

While Ocean was undertaking the warm water element of her first-of-class trials, she provided humanitarian assistance in Hondurasmarker following Hurricane Mitch.

During 2000 Ocean supported Operation Palliser in Sierra Leonemarker, joining HMS Illustrious aiding the suppression of rebel activity with her own EMF and providing support facilities for the Spearhead battalion ashore.

HMS Ocean showing Landing Craft on davits and Stern Ramp deployed
On 17 February 2002, a unit of Royal Marines from Ocean accidentally landed in the San Felipe beach in the Spanishmarker town of La Linea instead of Gibraltarmarker causing a minor diplomatic incident as various media outlets labelled the mistake as an "invasion".

Ocean was part of a large Royal Navy task force deployed for Operation Telic, the UK contribution to the 2003 Iraq War. In the helicopter assault role she was accompanied by HMS Ark Royal.

In the summer of 2006, she was deployed as part of the task force involved in the Aurora exercises on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

In 2007, Ocean began her first long refit period. This was carried out by Devonport Management Limited at their Devonport Royal Dockyardmarker facility and lasted around 12 months, during which period, Ark Royal took over the LPH role. HMS Ocean sailed from Plymouth on Wednesday 24 September 2008 to start sea trials, following this major period of maintenance and upgrading work. As part of that upgrade a PyTEC pyrolysising waste recycling unit was fitted.

On 18 February 2009, Ocean sailed from Devonportmarker as part of the Taurus 09 deployent under Commander UK Amphibious Task Group, Commodore Peter Hudson, She is joined on this deployment by Landing Platform Dock HMS Bulwark, as Hudson's flagship, Type 23 Frigates HMS Argyll and HMS Somerset and four ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Role

US Marines ride an elevator into HMS Ocean's hangar deck during an exercise in 1999


Ocean was designed to provide the amphibious assault capabilities last offered by HMS Albion and Bulwark whilst in the Commando role. She can deploy an Embarked Military Force (EMF) of a Royal Marines Commando Group from 3 Commando Brigademarker supported by aviation and landing craft assets. The ships company includes 9 Assault Squadron from 1 Assault Group Royal Marines.

Ocean is also capable of limited Anti-Submarine Warfare activities, supporting afloat training and acting as a base facility for other embarked forces including Counter-terrorism units.

Aviation

The air group of up to 12 Sea King HC-4 medium-lift helicopters, 6 Lynx AH-7 light-lift/anti-Tank helicopters, and 4 Mk5 landing craft is provided by the Commando Helicopter Force however she can also support the Westland WAH-64 Apache operated by the Army Air Corps and helicopters of the Royal Air Force including the Chinook.

Ocean can transport up to fifteen fixed wing Harrier aircraft of Joint Force Harrier in the ferry role, but is unable to operate as a fixed wing aircraft carrier.

Affiliations



See also



Notes and References

  1. http://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/publications/cyberpioneer/weapon/2007/dec07_weapon.html.print.html?Status=1
  2. Tell it to the marines... we've invaded the wrong country - The Guardian
  3. http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/EquipmentAndLogistics/OceanBackAtSeaAfter30mRefit.htm
  4. Royal Navy Website, http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/server/show/nav.7202
  5. BBC News 30th September 1998, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/183577.stm


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