Changes to Royal Navy's Surface Fleet Announced
(Source: U.K Ministry of Defence; issued December 15, 2010)
A Harrier GR9 taking off from RAF Cottesmore for a 16-aircraft formation flypast to mark the type’s retirement after 41 years of service. (UK MoD photo)
Changes to the Royal Navy's surface fleet, including the withdrawal from service of HMS Illustrious and the four remaining Type 22 frigates, have been announced today by Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox.

The changes follow announcements regarding the Royal Navy's surface fleet in the White Paper 'Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review' published on 19 October.

In a written ministerial statement to parliament today, Dr Fox said that HMS Illustrious will be withdrawn from service in 2014 and HMS Ocean will be retained to provide the landing platform helicopter capability for the longer term.

Four frigates are also to be withdrawn from service. These are the remaining Type 22s: HMS Chatham, Campbeltown, Cumberland and Cornwall.

Chatham will be withdrawn from service at the end of January 2011, Campbeltown and Cumberland will follow on 1 April, and Cornwall at the end of April.

HMS Ark Royal will be finally withdrawn from service at the end of this year.

The Bay Class amphibious support ship to be withdrawn from service will be RFA Largs Bay, in April 2011. The Auxiliary Oiler RFA Bayleaf and the Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessel RFA Fort George will also be withdrawn from service in April next year.

October's White Paper explained the Government's intention to make certain changes to the Armed Forces in order to deliver the force structure we require for the future and to help address the legacy of unaffordability in the Defence Budget.

Today's written ministerial statement explains in more detail those changes that affect the Royal Navy's surface fleet.

HMS Ark Royal, Ocean and Illustrious

The White Paper announced that the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal would be decommissioned, and, accordingly, she will finally be withdrawn from service at the end of this month.

It also announced that either her sister ship HMS Illustrious or the Landing Platform Helicopter ship HMS Ocean would be withdrawn from service following a short study into which of these two ships was better able to provide the capability we require over the next few years.

This work has now been completed and it has been decided that HMS Ocean should be retained to provide our landing platform helicopter capability for the longer term.

HMS Illustrious will be withdrawn from service in 2014, once Ocean has emerged from a planned refit and been returned to a fully operational state. This will ensure that we retain the ability to deliver an amphibious intervention force from the sea and maintain an experienced crew to support the later introduction into service of the new Queen Elizabeth Class carrier.

HMS Chatham, Campbeltown, Cumberland and Cornwall

The White Paper explained that four frigates would be withdrawn from service in 2011. These are the remaining Type 22 frigates HMS Chatham, Campbeltown, Cumberland and Cornwall.

Chatham will be withdrawn from service at the end of January 2011 and Campbeltown and Cumberland will follow on 1 April.

HMS Cornwall will be withdrawn at the end of April once she has returned from her current operational deployment to the Indian Ocean.

Amphibious Ships

Other changes affect the Navy's amphibious ships. One of the two Landing Platform Dock ships will in future be placed at extended readiness while the other is held at high readiness for operations.

From November 2011, the high-readiness ship will be HMS Bulwark, and on current plans this will change to HMS Albion in late 2016 when Bulwark enters a refit period.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary

The final changes affect the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The White Paper said that there would be a fleet of resupply and refuelling vessels scaled to meet the Royal Navy's requirements.

With a smaller surface fleet these requirements are correspondingly lower, and hence we have decided to withdraw from service the Auxiliary Oiler RFA Bayleaf and the Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessel RFA Fort George from April 2011.

Additionally the Bay-Class amphibious support ship RFA Largs Bay will be withdrawn from service in April 2011.



Flying High – Harrier Bids A Final Farewell
(Source: Royal Air Force; issued Dec. 15, 2010)
Today tributes were paid to the joint force of Royal Navy and RAF Harrier aircraft, with a spectacular flypast to mark their retirement after 41 years of service.

A formation of 16 Harriers took off from RAF Cottesmore and took to the skies of Lincolnshire.

Brought into service in 1969 and based at RAF Wittering, this British aircraft was designed to take off and land both vertically and on a short runway.

Well known for its role in the Falklands War, the Harrier went on to serve in many other conflicts including in Bosnia and Iraq in the 1990s.

The RAF and Royal Navy Harrier squadrons joined forces in 2000 to form Joint Force Harrier, based at RAF Cottesmore. These combined Harrier squadrons served in Sierra Leone, the second Gulf War and most recently Afghanistan.

Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Group, Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell, said:

“The Harrier is a true icon and stands testament to the innovation and excellence of British design and engineering, and the skill and courage of our airmen.

“It has had a truly distinguished service with both the RAF and the Royal Navy, from the South Atlantic to the skies over Afghanistan. It now takes its place in history as one of aviation's greats."

Officer Commanding 800 Naval Air Squadron, Commander Dave Lindsay, said:

“The Harrier leaves UK service after an illustrious career that has seen it contribute to every major conflict in the last 30 years. It has been an enormous personal privilege and honour to have been involved with this wonderful aircraft for nearly 20 years, at sea and over land, at peace and in conflict.

“I will forever be immensely proud to be able to say I have been a Royal Navy Harrier Squadron Commander.”

Last year the aircraft celebrated its 40th anniversary as the Harrier squadrons flew home after five years in Afghanistan.

Joint Force Harrier Commander, Group Captain Gary Waterfall, said:

“As the last Harrier Force Commander, it has been a real honour to ensure that the Harrier has been retired from service with all of the respect and dignity deserved.

“Today has been a tribute to everybody involved with the Harrier family.”

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