One of the Royal Navy’s largest warships is returning to sea after being in extended readiness in Devonport for almost six years. HMS Albion is in the final stages of completing an extensive £90 million mid-life technical upgrade.
In late 2011 the ship was placed at extended readiness, following the decision by the UK Government in the Strategic Defence and Security Review to operate one of two amphibious ships at any one time.
In 2015 Babcock Marine began work on the ship’s rejuvenation. In one of Devonport’s largest dry-docks Albion rested temporarily whilst her hull was inspected, and major invasive structural work and re-preservation of the paint scheme was undertaken.
Twelve months later, she was refloated and moved to the non-tidal basin at which point the propulsion and weapon systems were brought alive.
In January of this year 350 sailors and royal marines of her ships company moved back on board and in March the ship was moved to her home berth at Weston Mill.
The capability improvements are significant and necessary and will allow the ship to serve well into 2030s. During the refit 110 improvements have been made.
The most significant being the state-of- the-art Phalanx defensive Close in Weapon System, a new propulsion cooling system to allow the ship to operate more effectively in warmer climates, upgraded surveillance radar and combat system computer brain to manage all the weapons and systems.
The ship’s Captain, Tim Neild, said: “My crew and I are extremely proud to take HMS Albion back to sea. The ship looks amazing and is a credit to Babcock Marine, the Defence Equipment and Support organisation and the plethora of defence contractors.
"Becoming the UK’s very high readiness amphibious ship is tantalisingly close and we very much look forward to getting stuck in to the trials programme and rejoining the front-line fleet."
Babcock Project Manager James Morton said: “It’s been fantastic to see Albion grow over the past two years into the advanced and sophisticated warship that she is now.
"Babcock and all of the team are immensely proud of the project and we wish the Captain and all the crew every success and look forward to continuing our support to the Royal Navy."
HMS Albion now undertakes an intensive sea trials package to confirm performance of all her systems, followed by operational sea training. The ship is scheduled to sail from Devonport Naval Base at the end of the week.