02 July 2011

Barrow-Built Warships Mothballed to Save Cash:

A BARROW-built warship which joined the Royal Navy only eight years ago is to be put into reserve later this year as part of cost-cutting measures.

The amphibious assault ship HMS Albion is the flagship of the Royal Navy.

It is taking part in a joint exercise with the Saudi Arabian forces, known as Red Alligator, in the Arabian Peninsula.

The ship was also recently deployed to Libya as the command ship when HMS Ocean dispatched Apache helicopters against Colonel Gadaffi’s military assets.

But later this year, the crew and the ship’s contingent of commandos will leave and she will be put into what the Navy calls ‘extended readiness’, effectively laid up at Devonport, though the ship will be maintained at a cost of around £300,000 a year.

In Albion’s place, spearheading Britain’s ‘high readiness’ amphibious landing and commando carrying naval force, will be sister ship HMS Bulwark.

Also built in Barrow, the ship has recently undergone a refit and upgrade.

HMS Albion was launched in Barrow on March 9 2001 by the Princess Royal, Princess Anne. Bulwark, which was built alongside her was launched eight months later.

Helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, which was fitted out in Barrow, will also be laid up next year in what the Navy called ‘low readiness’, which means it would take a lot longer than Albion to bring back into service.

It is being laid up without a crew to save money as a result of the coalition government’s Strategic Defence Review.

Its place will be taken by the last of the Invincible-class aircraft carriers still in service, HMS Illustrious, which will serve until its withdrawal for sale or scrapping in 2014. HMS Ocean, a VSEL ship, was named by its sponsor, the Queen, in Barrow in early 1998.

Former surface ship sailor and submariner John Hart, president of the Barrow branch of the Submariners Association said of the planned lay-ups: “Maybe they don’t have a need for them or maybe they can’t find the crews.

“It sounds like they are basically putting Albion into reserve but maintaining it for instant use, that is probably what they are doing. The people at the top will know what they need and what they don’t need.”

A Royal Navy admiral, Sir Mark Stanhope recently publicly blasted the government over cuts, including that of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and its Harrier jump jets which could have been deployed in Libya. Another admiral claimed the cuts would leave Britain without enough ships to be effective.

Cumbria’s adopted warship HMS Cumberland has just been decommissioned from the navy after its role in the evacuation of Britons and other nationals from Libya, and Barrow’s adopted warship HMS Walney was retired early last year.

Source: North West Evening Mail. Friday, 01 July 2011

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