The only way is up for Britain’s future flagship as she successfully completes her sea trials this week following a massive £90m revamp.
HMS Albion is in the Channel preparing to flex her gunnery muscles as she re-masters the art of military operations after six years away from the front line.
The Devonport-based assault ship completed initial sea trials in the late spring when machinery systems and sensors were tested.
After summer leave for the 350 or so sailors and Royal Marines on board, trials resumed with the emphasis on turning Albion back into an operational warship.
Merlin helicopters launched and recovered Merlin helicopters from 814 Naval Air Squadron at Culdrose – the first air power on the flight deck since 2011.
The ship has undergone a two-year £90m refit which will allow her to serve well into the 2030s, among them a new cooling system to better operate in warmer climes, improved radar, new command system – the ‘brains’ of the ship, turning the data from her sensors into information the operations room team can interpret – and the installation of Phalanx automated Gatling guns, replacing the old Goalkeeper system.
Phalanx spews out 20mm rounds at the rate of 75 per second – a wall of iron and fire which is intended to knock out incoming missiles, aircraft or suicide boats.
It’s tried and tested across much of the Fleet, but a novelty on Albion – until this week when she’ll be conducting live firing trials off Plymouth.
“This final phase of trials is deliberately more complex and demanding,” explained Cdr Mark Jones, head of weapon engineering. “Since sailing at the end of August, there have already been many firsts and more to follow.”
Such as the first overseas visit in six years. At the weekend Albion was in Den Helder in the Netherlands for joint talks between British and Dutch Royal Marines as they planned amphibious exercises and combined training in the coming three years.
Albion parted company with two of her larger landing craft behind to test the navigational and seafaring skills of the Royal Marines of 4 Assault Squadron.
The 45-strong detachment of green berets will have to negotiate the inland waterways of Holland from Rotterdam to Vlissingen before crossing the Channel and returning to Plymouth and rejoining their mother ship in their craft, which chug along at a sedentary 10kts (12mph).
“Albion has been performing really well throughout the sea trials package,” said Albion’s Commanding Officer Capt Tim Neild.
“We are buoyed by the prospect of a return to the front line. With such a capable ship and a highly professional crew, I have no doubt that we will see a really positive return on the Royal Navy’s investment as we return to high readiness, ready to protect our nations interests worldwide.”