HMS Ocean (L12)
HMS Ocean was an amphibious assault ship, formerly the UK's helicopter carrier and the fleet flagship of the Royal Navy. She was designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force. She was constructed in the mid-1990s by Kvaerner Govan on the River Clyde and fitted out by VSEL at Barrow-in-Furness prior to trials and subsequent acceptance in service. Ocean was commissioned in September 1998 at her home port HMNB Devonport, Plymouth.
|Ordered:||11 May 1993|
|Builder:||Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd, Kværner (Govan)|
|Laid down:||30 May 1994|
|Launched:||11 October 1995|
|Sponsored by:||Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom|
|Commissioned:||30 September 1998|
|Decommissioned:||27 March 2018|
|Homeport:||HMNB Devonport, Plymouth|
|Motto:||Ex undis surgit victoria (From the waves rises victory)|
|Al Faw 2003|
|Fate:||Sold to Brazil|
|Acquired:||Purchased on 19 February 2018, from the Royal Navy|
|Commissioned:||29 June 2018|
|Homeport:||Arsenal de Marinha do Rio de Janeiro|
Nosso navio, nosso mar(Our ship, our sea)
|Class and type:||Landing Platform Helicopter|
|Displacement:||21,500 t (21,200 long tons; 23,700 short tons)|
|Length:||203.4 m (667 ft)|
|Beam:||35 m (115 ft)|
|Draught:||6.5 m (21 ft)|
|Propulsion:||2x Crossley Pielstick 12 cylinder.|
|Range:||8,000 miles (13,000 km)|
|Boats & landing |
|Troops:||830 Royal Marines|
|Crew:||285 + 180 FAA/RAF|
|Sensors and |
|Electronic warfare |
In December 2017, the Brazilian Navy confirmed the purchase of the ship for £84.6 million. Following her decommissioning from Royal Navy service on 27 March 2018, she arrived in Rio de Janeiro on 25 August 2018, with the intention of being commissioned as PHM Atlântico and fully operational by 2020.
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 amphibious transport ship. Argus's accommodation and facilities proved inadequate for the needs of 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 Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) was proceeding. Two shipbuilders tendered for the contract – Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (VSEL) and Swan Hunter. On 11 May 1993, the government announced that VSEL had won the contract. The build was to commercial standards, reducing costs significantly and leading to a construction spend of £154 million (£308 million in 2018),, comparable to that of a Type 23 frigate. VSEL, a warship manufacturer, sub-contracted the build phase to the commercial Kværner yard in Govan, Glasgow.
That VSEL's bid was £71 million lower than Swan Hunter's was the source of political controversy and led 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 ship 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.
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 (38.2 km/h; 23.7 mph); however, her usual top speed is 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).
Ocean was designed to provide the amphibious assault capabilities last offered by Albion and Bulwark. She can deploy an Embarked Military Force (EMF) of a Royal Marines Commando Group from 3 Commando Brigade supported by aircraft and landing craft. The ship's company included 9 Assault Squadron (9 ASRM) from 1 Assault Group Royal Marines whose primary role is as an Amphibious Assault Squadron. Secondary tasks include boarding parties, beach reconnaissance and providing amphibious knowledge to the ships Command. Besides these roles they have responsibilities within the ship which include firefighting, watchkeeping and security. 9 ASRM is divided into a HQ unit, Landing Craft Troop, Signals detachment, Vehicle Deck Party and Assault Supply Team.
HMS Ocean was 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.
The ship was capable of carrying four to six Apache AH1 helicopters operated by the Army Air Corps, as well as helicopters of the Royal Air Force, including the larger twin-rotor Chinook. Prior to their retirement, Ocean could transport up to fifteen fixed-wing Harrier aircraft of Joint Force Harrier in the ferry role, but was unable to operate as a fixed-wing aircraft carrier because she lacked the ski jump that is needed to launch a fully loaded Harrier.
For the 2012 London Olympics, she carried an air arm of eight Army Air Corps and Fleet Air Arm Super Lynx helicopters, four from each service, to deploy special forces and conduct other missions in a security role.
Weeks after being commissioned, Ocean was undertaking the warm water element of her first-of-class trials, when she was deployed on short notice to the coasts of Honduras and Nicaragua to provide humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. In early 1999, Ocean was scheduled to take part in an exercise in the Atlantic, but was diverted to the Mediterranean in readiness for possible deployment to Kosovo.
During 2000, Ocean supported Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone, joining Illustrious in aiding the suppression of rebel activity with her own embarked force, and providing support facilities for the Spearhead battalion ashore.
On 17 February 2002, whilst under command of Captain Adrian Johns, a unit of Royal Marines from Ocean accidentally landed on the San Felipe beach in the Spanish town of La Linea instead of Gibraltar, 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, for which she was awarded a new battle honour "Al Faw 2003". In the helicopter assault role she was accompanied by Ark Royal.
In the summer of 2006, under the command of Captain Christopher Clayton, the ship was deployed as part of the task force involved in the Aurora exercises on the eastern seaboard of the United States. Clayton was later succeeded by Captain Tony Johnstone-Burt.
In 2007, Ocean began her first long refit period. This was carried out by Devonport Management Limited at their Devonport Royal Dockyard facility and lasted around 12 months. Following this major period of maintenance and upgrading work, Ocean sailed from Plymouth on Wednesday 24 September 2008 to start sea trials. As part of that upgrade, a PyTEC pyrolysising waste recycling unit was fitted.
On 18 February 2009, Ocean sailed from Devonport as part of the Taurus 09 deployment. She was joined on this deployment by the landing platform dock Bulwark, as the flagship of the group, which included Type 23 Frigates Argyll and Somerset and four ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. This exercise was filmed for the second series of the Channel 5 documentary Warship.
During the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, Prime Minister Gordon Brown assigned Ocean and other units to rescue stranded travellers and army personnel across the English Channel in Operation Cunningham.
In 2010, the ship was sent on a multi-purpose deployment. This started with exercise Auriga on the eastern coast of the USA. She then moved to Brazil to conduct an exercise with the Brazilian marines; whilst there a defence co-operation agreement was signed on board. She then crossed the Atlantic to Nigeria to participate in the "Nigeria at 50" presidential fleet review and provide training to the Nigerian navy as part of the African partnership programme. She returned to Devonport in November.
In April 2011, while under command of Captain Keith Blount, the ship was deployed as part of the RN's Response Force Task Group (RFTG) COUGAR 11 deployment. During this deployment, she took part in Exercise Cypriot Lion.
In May 2011, she was detached from the COUGAR 11 deployment of the Response Force Task Group and sent with embarked Apaches to aid operations in Libya along with the attack helicopters aboard the French amphibious assault ship Tonnerre. This was the first time that Apache helicopters were sent directly into action from a Royal Navy ship. Her initial complement of three Apaches was bolstered by a fourth soon after, and later a fifth. The deployment included a large medical team, a sign of the ship's flexibility.
On 4 May 2012, she moored at Greenwich to prepare for her role of providing logistics support, accommodation and a helicopter landing site during the London 2012 Olympic Games. From 24 to 28 May 2012, she visited Sunderland, her affiliated port, and made other port calls before returning to London on 13 July. After Olympic duty, Ocean returned to her home port of HMNB Devonport for a scheduled period of maintenance. The LPH role was provided by HMS Illustrious until 2014. On 22 July 2014, HMS Ocean took over the helicopter carrier role again, after her 15-month, £65 million refit, replacing HMS Illustrious, which then returned to her home port Portsmouth for the last time, being decommissioned on 28 August 2014. As part of the Response Force Task Group COUGAR 14 deployment, Ocean participated in exercises off Albania and France.
In April 2015 Ocean took part in Exercise Joint Warrior 15-1 around the coast of Scotland, with Wildcat helicopters landing on her for the first time. She then stopped again in Sunderland where the ship's company exercised their right to the freedom of the city, with more than 300 officers and ratings parading through the city centre.
Ocean became the Royal Navy Fleet Flagship in June 2015. In December 2015, she returned to port after Exercise COUGAR 15, an amphibious warfare exercise in the Mediterranean with the French Navy.
In September 2016, Ocean left Devonport for the inaugural Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) (JEF(M)) Task Group deployment which is the successor to the annual Cougar deployments. The bulk of this deployment took place East of Suez and demonstrated the Uk's ongoing ability to deploy highly effective and combat capable maritime forces anywhere in the world. The core task group included the LSD RFA Mount's Bay, MOD strategic Ro-Ro vessel' 'MV Eddystone' 'and HMS' 'Bulwark' '. Elements of the Royal Marines lead Commando Unit, based around 42 Commando, were spread across the force. Frigates and Destroyers from the Royal Navy and French Navy joined throughout the deployment.  On the 60th anniversary of Op Musketeer,' 'Ocean' ' became the flagship of COMATG. This marked the end of the JEF(M) deployment.
On 25 November, the ship rendezvoused with USS Dwight D Eisenhower. COMATG assumed command of US CTF 50.Due to the US Navy carrier gap, this was the first time a Royal Navy vessel had commanded the US formation responsible for maritime war fighting in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulfs of Aden and Oman and the Indian ocean. On 24th March the Ship returned to Devonport. During the deployment she steamed 23,000 miles, visited 11 countries, provided a platform for 6 British ambassadors and High Commissioners and was home to up to 1150 service personnel.
At the end of August 2017, Ocean left Devonport for her final deployment, scheduled to take over as Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 flagship in the Mediterranean. Before she could relieve HMS Duncan with SNMG2, Ocean was redeployed to assist in disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean, and then the subsequent Hurricane Maria.
Ocean was decommissioned on 27 March 2018 at HMNB Devonport, with Queen Elizabeth II attending the ceremony.
Sale to BrazilEdit
Brazil, seeking a replacement for their navy's outgoing flagship, NAe São Paulo, began discussions with the United Kingdom in 2017 to negotiate the purchase of Ocean, following her decommission from service in 2018. An agreement was struck and after being transferred to Brazil, Ocean was commissioned as PHM Atlântico in June 2018.
- Coldstream Guards
- No. 27 Squadron RAF
- No. 30 Squadron RAF
- 656 Squadron, Army Air Corps
- 657 Squadron, Army Air Corps
- Worshipful Company of Farriers
- City of Sunderland
- Bedford Modern School CCF
- Whitgift School
- The Britannia Association
- HMS Ocean Association
- Duke of York Military School
- Kings College Wimbledon CCF
- Training Ship King Alfred
- Merton Sea Cadet Corps- T.S. Trafalgar
- 11th Torbay Sea Scouts
- 6th Torbay Sea Scouts
Notes and referencesEdit
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- The Royal Navy Handbook. Ministry of Defence. 2003. p. 92.
- Burgess, Matt. "A rare glimpse behind the scenes of UK warship HMS Ocean". Archived from the original on 11 June 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
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- "Brazil's new helicopter carrier set to arrive". janes.com. 24 August 2018. Archived from the original on 20 October 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.(subscription required)
- Corfield, Gareth (3 January 2018). "Brazil says it has bagged Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean for £84m". The Register. Archived from the original on 3 January 2018. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
- "Corveta Classe Tamandaré e HMS Ocean para a Marinha do Brasil. (Corvette Class Tamandaré and HMS Ocean for the Brazilian Navy.)". marinha.mil.br. 24 December 2017. Archived from the original on 13 February 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
- Fairhill, David (14 February 1992). "£500 million to be spent on new assault vessels". The Times. p. 15.
- Evans, Michael (3 February 1993). "Spending axe falls on £170m carrier". The Times.
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- Tighe, Chris; Green, Daniel (30 June 1993). "VSEL subsidised Navy ship bid". The Times. p. 7.
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- "HMS Ocean returns home". Ministry of Defence. 12 December 2011. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
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- "Royal Marines launch final assualt [sic] on exercise Albanian Lion". Royal Navy. 17 September 2014. Archived from the original on 14 April 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
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