UK — Royal Navy warships return home from major US exercise

Portsmouth-based air­craft car­ri­er HMS Ark Roy­al and Type 42 destroy­er HMS Liv­er­pool returned home to cheer­ing crowds on Sat­ur­day fol­low­ing a busy four-month deploy­ment in the west­ern Atlantic.

RFA Fort George comes alongside HMS Ark Royal's port (left) side during Exercise Auriga
RFA Fort George comes along­side HMS Ark Royal’s port (left) side dur­ing Exer­cise Auri­ga
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The ships were the lat­est of the task force to return to the UK fol­low­ing the return of HMS Suther­land and HMS Albion to Devon­port last week. Roy­al Aux­il­iary Fleet (RFA) ship Fort George returns to Crom­bie today. 

Exer­cise Auri­ga 2010 saw the sailors not only take part in large scale multi­na­tion­al exer­cis­es but also present the air­craft car­ri­er to the Queen at the Cana­di­an Navy’s Cen­ten­ni­al Inter­na­tion­al Fleet Review and host First Sea Lord Admi­ral Sir Mark Stan­hope and Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron. 

Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of HMS Ark Roy­al, Cap­tain John Clink, said: 

“Ark Roy­al, as the Car­ri­er Strike Group flag­ship, has had a suc­cess­ful deploy­ment and it is thanks to the hard work of the ship’s com­pa­ny that we have achieved so much. 

“Fly­ing from the sea is com­plex, excit­ing and takes a great deal of team­work and effort. 

“I think we can be jus­ti­fi­ably proud of a job well done as we strive to prove and improve our capa­bil­i­ties. All very fit­ting for a ship which cel­e­brates her sil­ver jubilee this year.” 

Exer­cise Auri­ga 2010 was designed to demon­strate the UK’s abil­i­ty to deploy, oper­ate and sus­tain a task group out of area for a pro­longed peri­od. The deploy­ment focused on a series of exer­cis­es host­ed by the Unit­ed States and Cana­di­an navies with the prin­ci­pal aim of enhanc­ing the task group’s oper­a­tional capability. 

Led by Com­modore Simon Ancona on HMS Ark Roy­al, the Car­ri­er Strike Task Group had around 2,000 UK, US and French per­son­nel on board HMS Suther­land, HMS Liv­er­pool, RFA Fort George, USS Bar­ry and the French sub­ma­rine FS Per­le, as well as Har­ri­er GR9 jets and Mer­lin, Sea King and Lynx helicopters. 

Com­modore Ancona said: 

“The Roy­al Navy is gen­er­at­ing a sus­tain­able small scale task group con­tin­gency capa­bil­i­ty in line with MOD policy. 

“The east coast of the Unit­ed States is lit­er­al­ly tai­lor-made to sup­port our needs — the exer­cise areas, assets and ranges form a sort of car­ri­er ‘gym­na­si­um’ for test­ing strike and amphibi­ous capabilities. 

“The Auri­ga deploy­ment was designed to take full advan­tage for both our Car­ri­er Strike and Amphibi­ous Task Group capa­bil­i­ty development. 

“It’s all about inter­op­er­abil­i­ty, flex­i­bil­i­ty and sus­tain­abil­i­ty, or, put sim­ply, work with allies to do what­ev­er is need­ed for as long as it takes, at sea and from the sea.” 

As well as Ark Roy­al being the com­mand and con­trol plat­form for the Car­ri­er Strike Task Group, the ship also embarked 14 Unit­ed States Marine Corps AV-8B Har­ri­er II jets, and became the task group lead for the Roy­al Navy’s Amphibi­ous Task Group. 

This includ­ed HMS Albion, HMS Ocean and RFA Largs Bay on a four-week exer­cise with USS Kearsarge. 

Fel­low Portsmouth-based war­ship HMS Liv­er­pool was tasked to pro­vide air defence for Ark Roy­al and the Car­ri­er Strike Task Group which has helped her devel­op new pro­ce­dures that will com­ple­ment the intro­duc­tion of the new air­craft carriers. 

HMS Liverpool’s Com­mand­ing Offi­cer, Com­man­der Ollie Hutchin­son, said: 

“Peo­ple who join the Roy­al Navy do so for the promise of going to sea, see­ing the world and expe­ri­enc­ing a var­ied and unique career. HMS Liv­er­pool has deliv­ered on that promise. 

“While the last four months have been extreme­ly chal­leng­ing, they have also been reward­ing and enjoy­able for every­body on board, but there is no sub­sti­tute for com­ing home.” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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