THE Royal Navy’s first permanent Pacific presence in a quarter of a century have arrived in San Diego.
Task Group 326.03 – Her Majesty’s Ships Tamar and Spey – sailed into the US Navy’s principal West Coast base bringing some dazzle to the Californian sunshine.
The distinctively-painted duo – each ship has adopted the wartime ‘dazzle paint’ camouflage scheme to make them stand out – will spend a few days in the city, before striking out across 2,600 miles of the Pacific for their first major stop of their deployment: Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
Since leaving Portsmouth in early September, the ships crossed the Atlantic together, briefly linked up with their sister HMS Medway which is assigned to the Caribbean long term.
Thereafter, Tamar went into Curacao, while Spey conducted the task group’s first defense engagement event in Cartagena, Colombia, attended by Vice Minister of Defence, Sandra Alzate, and UK Armed Forces Minister, James Heappey MP.
Sailors had the chance to experience life in the bustling port city – the first visiting ship’s company to do so in Colombia since the pandemic began – and were invited to their host’s naval academy.
Collectively nicknamed ‘Speymar’ by the 90 or so souls aboard the two patrol ships, the sisters reunited to take ‘the path between the seas’ – the 50-mile passage through the Panama Canal between the Atlantic and their ‘new playground’ of the Pacific.
Their patrol area embraces the entire Indo-Pacific region – from the eastern seaboard of Africa to the western coast of the Americas.
The mission is to promote UK interests, build and develop relationships in the region, promote security on the high seas, provide humanitarian aid and relief in the event of a disaster, and generally carry out duties as the government determines.
The ships’ flight decks double as ‘mission decks’ for storing containers or, in the future, RN PODs for drone/autonomous minehunting kit, relief supplies, or a control or command hub for Royal Marine raiding teams; the patrol vessels have a 50-berth mess set aside for additional troops/commandos.
“In many respects HMS Tamar and HMS Spey represent the vanguard of the Royal Navy’s contribution to a Global Britain and the promotion of our country’s prosperity overseas,” explained Task Force Commander – and Commanding Officer of HMS Tamar – Commander Teilo Elliot-Smith.
“I am incredibly proud of the combined efforts of our ship’s companies to generate this task group in record time and then take two brand-new ships half-way around the world to operate at range from our usual support networks.”
“The professional and personal opportunities that this deployment offers are huge and we are eager to deliver such wide and varied tasks.”
Once in the western Pacific, the duo will be the Navy’s first permanent presence in the region in a quarter of a century.
Not since HMS Tamar – the base in Hong Kong – closed when the colony was returned to China in 1997 has the UK consistently operated warships in the Indo-Pacific region, though the new ships will not have a specific base, rather use ports and harbors throughout the Pacific Rim for maintenance, support and regular crew changes.
Half the ship’s company return home every few weeks – replaced by shipmates heading out from the UK. It means Tamar and Spey are more available for operations and gives their sailors more settled lives.
The duo are planned to be deployed for five to ten years, paving the way for similar operations by the future Type 31 frigates currently under construction.
I am incredibly proud of the co