November 18, 2020 – UK flagship HMS Albion is knuckling down to NATO duties in the Mediterranean, keeping a close eye on criminal activity.
After an eventful period of exercises and training in Cyprus and Egypt, the Plymouth-based assault ship, plus supporting amphibious vessel RFA Lyme Bay, have joined the alliance’s Sea Guardian mission.
It’s the task of ships, helicopters and aircraft assigned to Sea Guardian to monitor shipping in the Mediterranean and spot anything out of place to allow lawful seafarers to pass safely – and to curb terrorism, smuggling, arms trafficking and other illegal activities.
Much of the work in the eastern Mediterranean is being led by one of its two major task groups, Standing Maritime Group Two (No.1 can be found patrolling the waters of northern Europe), comprising Spanish frigate ESPS Cristobal Colon, tanker ESPS Patino and Bulgarian frigate BGS Smeli.
Albion rendezvoused with the Spanish vessels for a Replenishment At Sea to take on fuel from the Patino, and conduct helicopter deck landing training involving a Seahawk from the Colon and veteran Sea King helicopter from the oiler.
With strict Covid precautions in place, the UK’s flagship also welcomed the NATO task group commander, Rear Admiral Manuel Aguirre Aldereguía, and his Chief-of-Staff, Royal Navy Commander Dave Sandy onboard.
“Today has been a great example of NATO interoperability, with two task groups conducting a rendezvous mid-Mediterranean and undertaking some advanced and seamless training,” the Spanish admiral said.
“All units have benefited from this fantastic opportunity and it proves yet again the Alliance´s strength as a multinational force.”
Under the Sea Guardian banner, Albion and Lyme Bay have already investigated more than 200 ships – chiefly cargo vessels, tankers and container ships – operating on a vital commercial transit route between Asia, Africa and Europe
The two British vessels form the core of the UK’s Littoral Response Group which is coming towards the end of its three-month experimental deployment to the Mediterranean, North Africa and Black Sea regions testing equipment and concepts which will shape future Royal Navy and Royal Marines operations.