The Bay-class amphibious landing vessel, which is also referred to as the Navy's 'mother ship', has traded places with RFA Lyme Bay.
It is the second time she has relieved her sister ship on what is "a well-trodden path of maintaining that continuous presence in theatre", according to Cardigan Bay's outgoing Commanding Officer, Captain Sam Shattock RFA.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel will undergo extensive maintenance and refurbishment on her return to the UK.
RFA Cardigan Bay has acted as a command ship and hub for the UK's Bahrain-based minehunters during her time in the Gulf.
She has also served as a floating base for specialist dive teams and experts testing automated mine warfare systems, helicopters moving personnel and supplies around the region.
Commodore Ed Ahlgren, the senior Royal Navy officer in the Middle East as UK Maritime Component Commander in Bahrain, said Cardigan Bay had provided "an exceptional service during her four years in theatre".
Cardigan Bay's ability to hold enough fuel to fill up multiple ships at a time, as well as approximately 200 tonnes of provisions, means that minehunters – which typically have a fairly limited range and endurance due to their size – can remain on operations for extended periods.
As a result, she's been heavily in demand since starting her deployment in 2017 – the second time in the past decade RFA Cardigan Bay has been sent to the Gulf to support minehunters.
Most recently, she was at the centre of the Anglo-French-US exercise Artemis Trident in the Gulf which is run every two years.
The vessel transferred fresh water, fuel and stores for Royal Navy and coalition ships during the exercise.
RFA Cardigan Bay has taken part in a number of workouts during her deployment to the Gulf, including four Khunjar Hadd exercises – the principal annual test of Oman's armed forces.
Cover image: RFA Cardigan Bay (Picture: Royal Navy).