HMS Middleton has returned to the water with the help of a hydraulic barge after spending six months ashore as part of her £7.5 million maintenance package.
She went into BAE Systems’ Ship Production Hall at HM Naval Base Portsmouth in July, with her Portsmouth-based crew helping integrate the upgrades and enhancements.
HMS Middleton is now preparing to return to the Fleet for her 37th year of service with improvements to her generators, hull and living quarters which include every bed space being fitted with electrical sockets and USB ports – a highly popular addition for improving life at sea for the crew.
Leading Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) Gary McKnight, 30, from Portsmouth, said: “Having the opportunity to work alongside our industry partners has been fascinating – particularly getting to see the ship out of the water.”
Whilst some members of Crew 8, the minehunter crew currently assigned to HMS Middleton, stayed with the ship others were assigned to active crews.
During their time apart, all have kept their essential seafaring and mine warfare skills honed with a tour of the Gulf ahead of them. The UK maintains a constant presence of four minehunters in the Gulf with crews rotating onto the vessels there.
Commanding Officer of HMS Middleton, Lt Cdr Christopher Hollingworth, said: “We are another step closer to taking HMS Middleton back to sea and rejoining the operational fleet for her fifth decade in Royal Navy service.
Gary Firbank, BAE Systems’ Project Manager for HMS Middleton said: “The load-out of HMS Middleton from the ship hall here at HM Naval Base Portsmouth marks a significant milestone within her docking programme.
“Our team has completed over 65,000 production hours, including a full structural re-baselining of the ship, with over 3km of laminating cloth being laid, extensive system enhancements, plus maintenance and defect rectification. We now look forward to embarking on the commissioning phase and readying the ship to return to sea on schedule.”
HMS Middleton is the seventh of 13 Hunt class Mine Counter Measure Vessels (MCMVs), six of which remain in service.
These ships are the largest in the world to be built of glass-reinforced plastic and have seen service in the Falklands and the Gulf. They counter anti-ship mines by hunting them using a high definition sonar; any mines detected by sonar are disposed of by their highly-trained divers or the unmanned mine disposal system, Seafox.