The Gibraltar Squadron is a unit of the British Royal Navy. It is the only resident seagoing Royal Naval unit in Gibraltar, attached to British Forces Gibraltar. In 2016 it consisted of two 16 m (52 ft 6 in) Patrol launches—HMS Scimitar and her sister ship HMS Sabre—and three Pacific 24 rigid-hulled inflatable boats, manned by a team of 26 people.
HMS Sabre, one of the Gibraltar Squadron's two patrol boats.
|Active||1985 - Present|
|Role||Maritime security and Force Protection|
|Size||Two Patrol Boats, 3 RHIBS & 26 personnel.|
|Garrison/HQ||PJOB Gibraltar/HQ British Forces Gibraltar|
|Lt Cdr K J Walkley|
The unit was established on 28 August 1985 following the withdrawal of the RAF Marine Craft Unit No. 1102. The two motor launches attached to the previous unit, HMAFV Sunderland and Stirling, remained however and were subsequently renamed HM ships Hart and Cormorant respectively. Both vessels remained with the squadron until May 1991 when they were replaced by the new P2000 patrol boats HM Ships Ranger and Trumpeter. These in turn remained with the squadron until 2003.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, security arrangements for the squadron were enhanced and the unit received yet another new pair of patrol boats, HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar, as well as three new RHIBs, in September 2002. The unit has played host to nine URNU students each summer for a two-week acquaint, giving them experience of a front line unit. In August 2011 the unit moved into its new facilities in the Old Boathouse on the Gibraltar waterfront.
On several occasions vessels of the Spanish Navy and Civil Guard have entered Gibraltar territorial waters and boats of the squadron have been dispatched to intercept them. The issue of sovereignty over Gibraltar has been a matter of contention between the United Kingdom and Spain since the territory first became a British colony and latterly an overseas territory.
In 2012, the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government undertook a review of the facilities and services associated with British Forces in Gibraltar. The review, known as Project EUSTON, has established that the three service units (the Gibraltar Squadron, RAF Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Regiment) will remain whilst some facilities and services will be handed over to the civilian government.
In July 2017 it was revealed that the squadron would receive two new warships which will be more “capable”, “faster” and have “bigger guns”, to replace HM Ships Sabre and Scimitar "within the next two years".
Since 2011 the Gibraltar Squadron has shared a headquarters and boathouse with the Marine Unit of the Gibraltar Defence Police. The boathouse accommodates the Navy's two patrol boats and three RHIBs, and the police's two patrol boats and two RHIBs.
The two patrol boats of the squadron are known as Lifespan Patrol Vessels (LPVs), built by Halmatic (now BAE Systems) and which previously served in Northern Ireland. HM Ships Scimitar and Sabre, previously known as MV Grey Fox and MV Grey Wolf respectively, were drawn from service in Northern Ireland. The two boats are capable of 30 knots and are armed with two General Purpose Machine guns (GPMGs).
According to the Royal Navy, the unit's mission is to:
"To contribute to the maritime defence and security of Gibraltar and, where necessary, the prosecution of offensive maritime operations in order to allow BFG to support military ops as directed by HMG."
Based in a purpose-built headquarters in Gibraltar, the Squadron is operational throughout the year in order to meet its directive from Commander British Forces Gibraltar, with particular regard to the security and integrity of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW). It is also responsible for the protection of British, NATO and allied warships passing through the Strait of Gibraltar or entering the naval base. Uniquely for the Royal Navy, the Squadron is permanently assigned to the Operational Command of Commander Joint Operations. The squadron is attached to the Portsmouth Flotilla and is one of two units permanently stationed overseas, the other being HMS Clyde, also assigned to the Portsmouth Flotilla.
- Navy, Royal. "Patrol boats". Royal Navy. MOD. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
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- "Gibraltar Squadron celebrates 25 year anniversary - royalnavy.mod.uk". Retrieved 14 January 2012.
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