Task force set for Med deployment
The Royal Navy’s amphibious flagship, HMS Bulwark, will sail from the Rock today as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) Task Group deployment to the Mediterranean and Middle East.
The ship arrived in Gibraltar on Saturday, joining RFA Mounts Bay and MV Eddystone already in harbour.
For one member of the crew on HMS Bulwark, the arrival in Gibraltar was a homecoming.
Gibraltarian priest Father Charles Bruzon, chaplain of HMS Bulwark, spoke of his emotions on sailing in Gibraltar.
“It always fills me with great pride to arrive in my home town in one of Her Majesty’s Ships and to do so as Chaplain to HMS Bulwark is a dream come true,” he said.
“It is especially satisfying to hear the sailors talk of their affection for ‘Gib’ and I know they’ll be afforded a very warm Gibraltarian welcome.”
This year’s major task group deployment will demonstrate the Royal Navy’s ability to deploy highly effective and combat-capable maritime forces anywhere in the world.
The Task Group will provide a forward-deployed military capability, giving the British Government a range of options to allow the UK to respond rapidly in the event of an overseas crisis.
The deployment also demonstrates the Royal Navy’s contribution to the security and prosperity of the UK and a commitment to regional allies.
During the deployment, exercises in the Adriatic and Arabian Seas, and the Gulf, will enhance the group’s readiness for contingent operations and provide opportunities to further relationships with NATO allies and other partner nations.
The Task Group is commanded by Commodore Andrew Burns, the Commander Amphibious Task Group, embarked on HMS Bulwark.
It also consists of helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, supported by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary amphibious ship RFA Mounts Bay and theMinistry of Defence Strategic Ro-Ro vessel, MV Eddystone, both of which were also in Gibraltar this weekend.
Destroyers and frigates from the Royal Navy, US and French Navies will also join the force at various points during the next few months. The Lead Commando Group, from 42 Commando Royal Marines, will be embarked together with an air group consisting of Chinook, Merlin and Apache attack helicopters.
Some of those aircraft could be seen flying in and around Gibraltar over the weekend, as personnel and equipment were loaded onto the vessels.
As well as the staff of Commander Amphibious Task Group, the Commander of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, Brigadier Jim Morris, is also embarked , logon HMS Bulwark together with his deployable headquarters staff.
“This deployment is a very significant task for the Royal Navy, and for defence, demonstrating our ability to deploy and operate worldwide, while engaging closely with allies and standing ready for whatever a deployment to an area of strategic interest to the UK might present,” Commodore Burns said.
“I know that all of the units under my command are ready to make the most of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”
The task force deployment also signals the continuing importance of Gibraltar as a UK forward mounting base.
Captain James Parkin, the Captain of HMS Bulwark, said: “I am delighted to return to Gibraltar as the first stop of our deployment this autumn.”
“My sailors and Royal Marines have put everything into making sure that Bulwark was ready to deploy last week as the Commodore’s flagship, and as a warship in her own right, and I am hugely proud of all the work they have put in to get us to this stage.”
“I am confident that my people and my ship are ready to meet any challenge thrown at us in what promises to be a demanding and exciting programme.”
Photos by DM Parody