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Wednesday, September 30, 1998 Published at 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK


UK's first helicopter attack ship sets sail

The Royal Navy's newest ship and its first purpose-built amphibious helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, has been commissioned in Plymouth.

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jock Slater, represented the Queen at the commissioning ceremony of the 154m ship, which featured a fly past by Sea King, Lynx and Gazelle helicopters, a Hercules transporter and two World War II Swordfish aircraft.

HMS Ocean's commanding officer Captain Bob Turner said: "Commissioning day marks the end of years of building, fitting out and trials.

"It is the most important day in the life of HMS Ocean so far and the first chance to show off our new ship to our families and friends."

Multi-tasking role

Royal Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Bob Wilson said that HMS Ocean's first job as a navy ship is to sail to the Caribbean at the end of October for warm weather trials.

"We have to ensure that the ship's air conditioning, electronic equipment and general machinery works where there is a high ambient temperature," he said.

"Ocean will then sail to Belize and go through several evolutions, including embarking 500 commandos and equipment, before returning to the UK for Christmas."

It has already carried out more than 900 test landings of various aircraft.

HMS Ocean was conceived during the late 1980s Strategic Defence Review, which sought to adapt the Royal Navy from a Cold War deterrent force focused on a single threat to a new, global and flexible role.

Extra range

The 21,000 tonne, 208m long ship, officially described as a 'landing platform helicopter ship', is designed to "insert and extract" soldiers for peacekeeping, humanitarian and anti-terrorist missions.

Lieutenant Commander Wilson said: "The landing craft and helicopters with which Ocean is equipped can deliver men to shore from 150 to 200 miles out at sea, or from the shore it can place them a comparable distance inland.

"It's the first time we've had something with quite this range."

HMS Ocean can deploy up to 800 men using four large landing craft and 12 medium-support helicopters, principally Lynxes and Sea Kings. It can also carry up to 15 Sea Harrier attack aircraft.

Launched on 11 October 1995, HMS Ocean was built by Kvaener Govan in Glasgow, before sailing to Barrow-in-Furness for fitting out and finally arriving in Portsmouth for a final bout of remedial work.

In February 1997, the ship was christened by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, becoming the sixth Royal Navy vessel to bear the name Ocean.

The commissioning means that HMS Ocean officially enters Royal Navy service, and it will replace two decommissioned amphibious assault ships, HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion.

Facts about HMS Ocean

  • HMS Ocean can park 40 Land Rovers, 34 trailers and six 105mm light guns on its vehicle deck.

  • It can also carry 1500 tonnes of diesel and aviation fuel, giving it a range of 8000 miles between fill ups.

  • HMS Ocean cannot carry or deploy tanks or heavy artillery. The navy is building two 'landing platform dock ships', named Bulwark and Albion, to fulfil this role.

  • HMS Ocean was dubbed "HMS Unlucky" after a series of mishaps. One accident required the refitting an entire propeller shaft and the ship had yet to leave dock.

  • The last HMS Ocean, commissioned in 1945, was the first ship to successfully land a jet aircraft.

  • HMS Ocean has a top speed of 18 knotts or 20mph on land.

  • The ship has been fitted out for male and female crew members. HMS Northumberland, the navy's first "mixed" crew ship, is known by the nickname "HMS Nookie".

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