HMS Ocean Takes The Lead In The Gulf

What HMS Ocean lacks in size compared to an aircraft carrier, she more than makes up for in flexibility. Between her deck and her hangar...

What HMS Ocean lacks in size compared to an aircraft carrier, she more than makes up for in flexibility. 

Between her deck and her hangar, she can accommodate 18 helicopters. 

Add to that the 800 plus Royal Marine Commandos that can also be housed on board and you have a highly formidable piece of amphibious weaponry. 

Ocean is the lead ship in Exercise Unified Trident

For the past three months, Ocean has been in the Gulf at the head of a Combined Task Force or CTF. 

The US Navy’s 5th Fleet operates a number of CTFs around the region, each responsible for keeping vital shipping lanes safe and open to commerce. 

A fifth of the world’s oil is exported from the Gulf States. 

Pre-eminent among these naval task forces is CTF 50 - which is why it is usually headed by a US aircraft carrier. 

But with the USS George HW Bush still on route from her base in Norfolk, Virginia, the role has been given to HMS Ocean. 

With the Royal Navy recently opening a new base in Bahrain, and the arrival of the new QE Class carriers drawing closer, this is being seen as a ‘dry-run’ for a larger UK role in the Gulf. 

In command is Commodore Andrew Burns, the first Royal Navy officer to command a CTF.

He said: 

“One of the ideas of the UK taking command of CTF 50 is to gain an insight into how we will integrate the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers into the architecture of the 5th Fleet’s area of responsibility, and we’ve proved that we can do that”.

Exercise Unified Trident was conceived by the Royal Navy.

As well as US Navy ships, the Australian frigate Arunta is also involved, as well as France’s anti-air frigate FSS Forbin. 

HMS Chiddingfold, one of eight Hunt-Class mine hunters, is among the other British vessels taking part. 

Another ship exercising alongside HMS Ocean is the destroyer USS Mahan.

In January she was forced to fire warning shots at a number of Iranian military attack boats which approached at speed and ignored warnings to stop. 

Iran has also recently completed tests on a ballistic missile, putting her on a diplomatic collision course with the UN and President Trump. 

The Australian frigate Arunta trails HMS Ocean

It is why some commentators have suggested Unified Trident is as much a show of power towards Tehran as a naval exercise.

It’s a theory Commodore Burns rejects: 

“This exercise is in no way connected with any of the geopolitical events that are going on in this region. We’re operating in international waters, yet we know we’ll interact with the Iranians because those waters are adjacent to the territorial waters of Iran”.

For Ocean, this exercise may well be one of her last.

After 22 years of service, the Royal Navy's current Flagship vessel is due to be decommissioned next year

More: 'Behind The Scenes: Sailing On HMS Ocean'