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HMS Bulwark Assumes Duties as Flagship in North Persian Gulf

HMS Bulwark Assumes Duties as Flagship in North Persian Gulf

From Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs.

Aboard HMS Bulwark -- (NNS) March 1, 2006 -- HMS Bulwark (L15), the Royal Navy's most modern and versatile warship, assumed duties Feb. 28 from USS Cape St. George (CG 71) as the flagship for the Royal Navy staff which leads Combined Task Force 58 (CTF 58), a multinational coalition that conducts maritime security operations (MSO) in the North Persian Gulf.

Persian Gulf (March 1, 2006) - The Royal Navy’s most modern and versatile warship, HMS Bulwark (L15), assumed duties Feb. 28 from the guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) as the flagship for Combined Task Force Five Eight (CTF-58). CTF-58 is a multinational coalition, which conducts maritime security operations (MSO) in the northern Persian Gulf. MSO helps establish the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. U.S. Navy photo Ms. Emily Chambers.

U.S. Navy photo Ms. Emily Chambers

Maritime security operations help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny the illegal use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

“This is a real opportunity to make imaginative use of this versatile platform. Bulwark will use her eight landing craft and specialist boarding teams to protect a wide area, while the ship herself will provide a base from which the Iraqi Navy and Iraqi Marines can operate their boats. With start-of-the-art planning and command facilities, the coalition commander and his team will be able to plan and direct high tempo operations,” said Capt. Clive Johnstone, Bulwark's commanding officer.

While in the Persian Gulf, Bulwark will help maintain stability and safe passage in the waters surrounding two Iraqi oil platforms, Al Basra Oil Terminal (ABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT), which contribute significantly to the Iraqi economy. From the British warship, CTF 58 will command the task force that includes U.S. Sailors of Mobile Security Detachment 31 aboard the oil terminals, as well as other ships of the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy, U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. Bulwark will work closely with these coalition partners and the Iraqi Navy and Marine Corps to provide security for these two critical infrastructures.

“It is of the utmost importance to the Iraqi economy that there is no interruption to the revenue from its oil,” said Johnstone. ”This, together with the training needed to empower the embryonic Iraqi navy to take on these tasks, make it vital that coalition resources provides the support and protection necessary in this vulnerable area for the time being. The strength of a coalition is that it clearly demonstrates the support and commitment from around the world, and underlines the importance we all place on security and stability in the Northern Gulf.”

Before arriving in the Persian Gulf, Bulwark's crew conducted MSO further south. The ship recently served as part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, another coalition task force currently led by the Dutch. Coalition ships operating as part of CTF 150 conduct MSO in the North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, Combined Forces Maritime Component commander, ultimately leads all maritime task forces in the region and employs coalition capabilities in MSO.

“HMS Bulwark was designed as a Commando Assault and Command ship, but these capabilities can be adapted to provide a secure base from which to run a diverse range of activities, from numerous boat groups operating over a large swathe of the sea to hosting a variety of coalition specialists and their equipments. My ship and her crew have trained to be able to switch from one skill set to a new one at a moment's notice,” the captain said.

The crew of the Royal Navy's newest commando assault and command and control ship numbers 380, a quarter of whom are made up from 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines (4 ASRM). For the MSO deployment, a company of Royal Marines from 45 Commando, as well specialist boarding teams from the Fleet Protection Group and specialist boat groups from 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines embarked this ship.

Soon, two Lynx helicopters from 815 Naval Air Squadron will join Bulwark, which celebrates its one-year commissioning anniversary in April. The ship can transport up to 700 troops, and its flight deck can accommodate a Chinook or three Merlin or Lynx helicopters. A large floodable dock holds four large landing craft – with another four carried on davits on the ship's side.

Johnstone believes his crew has maximized the ship's capabilities, employing its “unique capabilities” as a force for good and building links along the trade routes that are key to numerous countries' chartered shipping. With its eight landing craft, five smaller sea boats and specialist Royal Marine and Royal Navy boarding parties, the captain said Bulwark can influence up to 1,500 square miles at a time. These boarding teams intend to detect, deter and deny illegal use of the maritime environment.

The training teams aboard have worked with several countries throughout the region, sharing procedural and tactical experience. The ship's crew and their regional counterparts have made the most of their collective local knowledge.

“Operating alongside the navies and coast guards in the region is a real opportunity to trade local knowledge and experiences of these sorts of operations so that everyone benefits and pools their knowledge, as well as increasing mutual understanding and making new friends,” he said.

According to Johnstone, with 92 percent of all U.K.'s trade, by weight, moved by sea, the vulnerable waters leading into the Red Sea and toward the Suez Canal have always been of national strategic interest.

“These volatile waters are susceptible to terrorist movements, people trafficking, smuggling and piracy. However, the Royal Navy plays a major role with the coalition forces as they police the regional seas and bring stability to the area,” he said.

Bulwark, homeported in Plymouth, left the United Kingdom in January for a seven-month deployment east of Suez.

  • For related news, visit the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).