Royal Navy flagship HMS Albion (L14) returned from her three-month experimental autumn deployment to the Mediterranean. The assault ship sailed back home to Devonport having led Littoral Response Group (Experimentation) (LRG(X)) on a series of exercises which will help shape the Royal Navy and Royal Marines of tomorrow. They tested new equipment, such as drones, which could be used for resupplying equipment to commandos on the ground, miniature aerial helicopters for surveillance and underwater autonomous sonars to help map beaches for landings. Working together with HMS Dragon and RFA Lyme Bay, the task group has focused on developing the tactics and technology which will drive the Future Navy and Royal Marine’s Future Commando Force.
In all 40 experimental concepts have been tested in nine major exercises, largely focused around Cyprus in October and November. The assault ship, helicopters and Royal Marines trained alongside forces from Cyprus, France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine. In addition to experimentation, the task group worked with NATO allies and regional partners to promote stability and security in the Mediterranean. Albion and Lyme Bay, which is home in Portland next week, also took part in NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian, where they investigated over 200 cargo vessels, tankers and container ships, operating on a vital commercial transit route between Asia, Africa and Europe. Although the LRG(X) deployment has finished, the beginnings of what they have achieved has just started.
HMS Albion is an amphibious transport dock of the Royal Navy, the first of the two-ship Albion class. Built by BAE Systems Marine in Barrow-in-Furness, Albion was launched in March 2001 by the Princess Royal. Her sister ship, Bulwark, was launched in November 2001, also from Barrow. Affiliated to the city of Chester and based in Plymouth, she is the ninth ship to carry the name Albion (after Albion, an ancient name of Great Britain), stretching back to the 74-gun 1763 warship, and last carried by an aircraft carrier decommissioned in 1973 after 19 years service. Designed as an amphibious warfare ship, Albion carries troops, normally Royal Marines, and vehicles up to the size of the Challenger 2 main battle tank. She can deploy these forces using four Landing Craft Utility (LCUs) and four Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVPs).
The Albion-class landing platform dock is a class of amphibious assault ship in service with the Royal Navy. The class consists of two vessels, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, ordered in 1996 to replace the ageing Fearless class. Both ships were built by BAE Systems Marine at the former Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering yard in Barrow-in-Furness. In 2017, Albion had her Goalkeeper mounts removed and replaced by a pair of 20mm Phalanx mounts as part of her refit prior to returning to active service; Bulwark will have her Goalkeeper mounts removed upon her entry into Extended Readiness. For air and surface search, a Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems Radar Type 996 E/F band radar was fitted. From 2013 on, RT996 will be gradually replaced by the BAE Systems Maritime Services Artisan 3D E/F-band (designated RT997).