Definitions

ships company

HMS Ocean (L12)

HMS Ocean (L12) of the Royal Navy is an Amphibious assault ship (or Landing Platform Helicopter), the sole member of her class. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force.

She was constructed in the mid-1990s by Kvaerner Govan Ltd on the Clyde and fitted out at Barrow-in-Furness prior to first of class trials and subsequent acceptance in service. She was commissioned in September 1998 at her home port Devonport, Plymouth, Devon.

History

An invitation to tender for a new helicopter carrier was issued in February 1992. In February 1993 The Times reported that the carrier faced cancellation due to budgetary constraints. However, at approximately the same time, British forces were engaged in operations in the Balkans, which saw the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's aviation training ship RFA Argus pressed into service as an LPH. Argus proved totally unsuitable in terms of accomodation and facilities needed for a large Embarked Military Force, which reitereated the need for a purpose built platform. On 29 March 1993 the defence procurement minister announced that development of the new LPH was proceeding.

Two shipbuilders competed for the contract - Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (VSEL) and Swan Hunter. On 11 May 1993 the government announced VSEL had won the contract. The build was to commercial standards, reducing costs significantly and leading to a construction spend of £154 million, comparable to that of a Type 23 frigate. VSEL, a warship manufacturer, sub-contracted the build phase to the commercial Kværner yard in Govan, Glasgow.

The fact that VSEL's bid was £71 million lower than Swan Hunter's was the source of political controversy and lead to a National Audit Office investigation to determine whether the competition was fair. The report, published on 29 July 1993, stated that although VSEL did subsidise its bid the MoD was right to award the contract to VSEL because the subsidy was much smaller than the difference between the two bids; VSEL's bid was £139.5 million compared to Swan Hunter's £210.6 million. The Times also suggested that the subsidy was as little as £10 million. In anticipation of the report the Financial Times described the different philosophies adopted by the two bidders; While Swan Hunter viewed the ships as entirely military, "VSEL thought the design was basically a merchant ship with military hardware bolted on." VSEL's decision to sub-contract the build phase took advantage of lower overheads at a civilian yard as well as efficiency drives by its parent, Kværner. The cut-price build to commercial standards means that HMS Ocean has a projected operational life of just 20 years , significantly less than that of other warships.

Launched on 11 October 1995, she was subsequently named at Barrow by Her Majesty the Queen on 20 February 1998, prior to delivery to Devonport.

Service history

While Ocean was undertaking the warm water element of her first-of-class trials, she provided humanitarian assistance in Honduras following Hurricane Mitch.

During 2002 Ocean supported Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone, joining HMS Illustrious aiding the suppression of rebel activity with her own EMF and providing support facilities for the Spearhead battalion ashore.

Ocean was part of a large Royal Navy task force deployed for Operation Telic, the UK contribution to the 2003 Iraq War. In the helicopter assault role she was accompanied by HMS Ark Royal.

In 2007, Ocean began her first long refit period. This was carried out by Devonport Management Limited at their Devonport Royal Dockyard facility and lasted around 12 months, during which period, Ark Royal took over the LPH role. HMS Ocean sailed from Plymouth on Wednesday 24 September 2008 to start sea trials, following this major period of maintenance and upgrading work.

Role

Ocean was designed to provide the amphibious assault capabilities last offered by HMS Albion and Bulwark whilst in the Commando role. She can deploy an Embarked Military Force (EMF) of a Royal Marines Commando Group from 3 Commando Brigade supported by aviation and landing craft assets. The ships company includes 9 Assault Squadron from 1 Assault Group Royal Marines.

Ocean is also capable of limited Anti-Submarine Warfare activities, supporting afloat training and acting as a base facility for other embarked forces including Counter-terrorism units.

Aviation

The air group of up to 12 Sea King HC-4 medium-lift helicopters, 6 Lynx AH-7 light-lift/anti-Tank helicopters, and 4 Mk5 landing craft is provided by the Commando Helicopter Force however she can also support the Westland WAH-64 Apache operated by the Army Air Corps and helicopters of the Royal Air Force including the Chinook.

Ocean can transport up to fifteen fixed wing Harrier aircraft of Joint Force Harrier in the ferry role, but is unable to operate as a fixed wing aircraft carrier.

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