Just An Ocean Away: GBP 30M Refit for Navy's LPH
Babcock Marine's Devonport Dockyard has received a GBP 30 million (about $59.5 million) for a major upgrade to the Royal Navy's Plymouth-based helicopter carrier HMS Ocean [LPH 01]. The work is part of the developing Surface Ship Support Alliance, a new contracting approach that was a pre-requisite to approval of the Royal Navy's new 65,000t CVF Queen Elizabeth Class carriers.
The 22,500t HMS Ocean is similar to some of the smaller LHD designs like the 21,300t French Mistral Class. Built to commercial standards, LPH01 carries a crew of 255, an aircrew of 206, and 480 Royal Marine Commandos; an additional 320 marines can be accommodated in a short-term emergency. The ship has capacity for 40 vehicles, but is not designed to land heavy tanks with its 4 Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) Mk 5s. Its main assets are up to 18 helicopters: usually 12 transport (EH101 Merlins, H-3 Sea Kings; H-47 Chinooks can only be refueled and serviced on deck) and 6 maritime/ scout/ attack (Lynx variants, and/or WAH-64D Apache). Secondary ship roles include training, a limited anti-submarine warfare role, humanitarian assistance, and acting as a base for anti-terrorist operations.
Events have forced the ship to remain at sea near more distant shores, however, and on longer voyages than originally anticipated Hence the priority on crew-related modifications. Not to mention some of the other changes…
The year-long refit of HMS Ocean will involve the fitting of new main propulsion shaft sections, extensive improvements in accommodation (including mess-deck dining areas in troop accommodation areas, storage for troop equipment, improvements to the galley and accompanying food storage areas), and an upgrade to the ship's aviation support facilities to improve support to the Army's WAH-64D Apache attack helicopters. Work is expected to start in September 2007 and, the ship is expected to return to service in September 2008 after a set of sea trials.
HMS Ocean participated Iraqi operations near Al-Faw in 2003, and her most recent assignment involved deployment to the Caribbean to counter drug smuggling (see video – at GBP 29 million, the value of seized drugs was about equal to the present refit costs), work with US Marine Corps' HMM-774 "Wild Geese"s and their CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters in a joint training deployment, and offer humanitarian assistance to hurricane victims.
In her absence, Britain's 20,000t escort carrier and fleet flagship HMS Ark Royal will take on HMS Ocean's role, embarking the helicopters and Royal Marines and serving as a less-optimized backup. MoD release.