After 222 days in the Gulf escorting merchant shipping and safeguarding UK interests in the Middle East it has been back to basics for the crew of HMS Defender as she prepares for future carrier strike operations.
The destroyer has been on her second set of trials and training following post-deployment maintenance with a focus on safe operation by her 190 crew.
They are gearing up for Fleet Operational Sea Training later in the summer over the course of six weeks.
Commanding Officer, Commander Vince Owen said: "It has been fantastic to take HMS Defender back to sea after a busy maintenance period following our return in March from seven months deployed in the Middle East.
"It has been fantastic to take HMS Defender back to sea after a busy maintenance period following our return in March from seven months deployed in the Middle East. The focus for us has now shifted to preparing for our next deployment and the new challenges and opportunities that will present us.
“The next step on this exciting journey starts in July as we commence our Operational Sea Training package, this training will provide the perfect opportunity to integrate the new crew members into our team and enhance our maritime skills before we focus on carrier task group training later this year," said Commanding Officer, Commander Vince Owen.
During this current sea time, the crew have run scenarios and training serials involving the destroyer's machinery, fire-fighting training, sea boat drills, an air-defence exercise and fired nearly all the vessel's weapons.
Leading Engineering Technician Danny Holmes said: "As tough as basic operational sea training can be, I am excited to refresh myself and help to train the more junior members of the ship's company so we can deploy in 2021 as a competent fighting unit."
LET Stephen Bates said: "It's exciting to finally be onboard and apply the training that I have undergone so far. I am now ready for a new set of challenges in the build up to the deployment."
HMS Defender was diverted to the Middle East last summer, from an intended Far East deployment, to join other Royal Navy vessels accompanying British merchant shipping into and out of the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz.
She sailed the narrow waters at the gateway to the Gulf 28 times, accompanying 1.6m tonnes of cargo on those 38 ships – cargo vital to UK trade and economy.
Her crew also scored the biggest crystal meth seizure on record in the region, 131kg, followed in January by 2.5 tonnes of cannabis, while on anti-smuggling operations in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.