Tuesday, December 23, 2008
HMS Cumberland (F85)
Figure 1: HMS Cumberland docked at Spillers Wharf, Newcastle, England. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: HMS Cumberland returns home for Christmas after fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Friends and families of HMS Cumberland's crew gathered on 12 wharf in HMNB (Her Majesty’s Naval Base) Devonport to welcome home their loved ones in time for Christmas. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: CPO (Chief Petty Officer) Chatfield pictured after his arrival home with his sons Jack and Scott. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Leading Hand Mark Verner pictured after his arrival home with his daughter Loren Verner. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Part of HMS Cumberland's crew gathered on deck as the ship docked at 12 wharf, HMNB (Her Majesty's naval Base) Devonport. The ship returned after a four-month deployment. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: Leading Seaman Ben Woodward pictured after his arrival home with his daughter Ashley Woodward. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: Another angle of HMS Cumberland docked at Spillers Wharf, Newcastle, England. Courtesy Royal Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a county in England, HMS Cumberland (F85) is the second of four Batch 3 Type 22 frigates and the sixteenth ship to bear this name. Cumberland was built by Yarrow Shipbuilders Ltd. and was commissioned at her home port in Devonport, England, in June 1989. The 5,400-ton Cumberland is approximately 486 feet long and 48 feet wide, has a top speed of 30 knots, and has a crew of 252 officers and enlisted personnel. The ship is armed with Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles, Seawolf missiles (used for anti-missile and anti-aircraft defense), a 4.5-inch main gun, two 20-mm guns, and a 30-mm Goalkeeper close-in-weapons-system. Cumberland also carries a Lynx helicopter armed with Sea Skua anti-surface missiles, Stingray anti-submarine torpedoes, and a machine gun. In addition, the frigate has two Pacific-type sea boats that are used to land boarding parties comprised of Royal Marines as well as members from the ship’s crew. Each of these small boats carries one machine gun.
On Friday, 19 December 2008, HMS Cumberland returned to her home port at HMNB (Her Majesty’s Naval Base) Devonport, England, just in time for Christmas. The ship had been on a four-month deployment that took her to the Gulf of Aden to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. Cumberland originally was deployed to the Arabian Gulf as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) to conduct defensive diplomacy patrols in the region. But, after transiting the Suez Canal, NATO responded to a request from the United Nations by sending elements of this force to escort merchant ships for the World Food Program and to conduct counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. With Somalian pirates making almost 100 attacks on merchant and passenger ships this year, shipping companies have made increasing demands for more naval protection in the region. Fortunately, Cumberland was well equipped, trained, and prepared to deal with pirates. This past summer at Devonport, the ship and its crew underwent intensive operational sea training in conducting anti-piracy operations and maritime security patrols.
Cumberland worked with other NATO warships and maritime patrol aircraft (and used her own Lynx helicopter) to identify vulnerable merchant ships. Sometimes the mere presence of this ship was enough to prevent a pirate attack. But if Cumberland received a report of any suspicious activity or of an actual pirate attack, she immediately launched her helicopter. Both the ship and the helicopter then headed for the suspected pirates, with the heavily-armed helicopter reaching the area first to discourage any would-be attackers. Once over the troubled area, the helicopter crew assessed the situation and guided Cumberland straight toward the pirates, with the frigate firing flares, sounding horns, flashing lights, and making VHF radio calls demanding that the pirates stop immediately. If the pirates didn’t stop, the ship’s fire hoses might be used to to disrupt the crew of the pirate boat. At the same time, the Lynx helicopter continued flying overhead monitoring the situation and providing top cover if needed. A boarding team comprised of Royal Marines then was launched and sent to board the pirate vessels.
In one incident, the Royal Marine boarding team got into their boats and signaled a stern warning to the pirates, demanding that they stop. The Royal Marines eventually boarded the pirate’s support vessel and searched it. Weapons were recovered and equipment used for piracy, such as ladders and grappling hooks, were confiscated. The pirates were detained and their skiffs were sunk by gunfire from Cumberland.
Cumberland has made a significant contribution to the international effort to combat piracy off the coast ot Somalia. During her deployment, the ship seized 20 assault rifles, three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, several pistols, and sank four pirate vessels. It is hard to believe that, although we are heading into 2009, navies around the world are still combating piracy, an illegal practice that is hundreds of years old. Although today’s pirates are usually better armed than their predecessors, so are the ships used to hunt them down. But the scourge of piracy still proves how vulnerable unarmed merchant ships are and how important warships are in hunting down and eliminating this threat.
Yet, in my humble opinion, one of the most significant accomplishments of HMS Cumberland’s mission was that she made it back home in time for Christmas. Even though these crewmembers will be sharing the holiday season with their loved ones, let’s take a moment to remember that there are literally thousands of men and women serving on warships all over the world who will not be as fortunate as the Cumberland’s crew. They will be at sea, doing a job that will keep them far from home this Christmas. Many, many thanks to them and their families.
Posted by Remo at 9:16 AM