The Royal Navy has deployed its minehunter HMS Bangor to the Mediterranean to relieve the HMS Brocklesby in supporting NATO forces off the coast of Libya.
HMS Bangor is one of seven Sandown Class minehunters, and is based at HM Naval Base Clyde in Faslane, Scotland, from where it departed on Monday.
“Due to recent events in the Mediterranean, in particular around the coast of Libya, the UK has been requested by NATO to keep one mine countermeasures vessel on station in this area,” said the HMS Bangor’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Neil Marriott. “We have been working long and hard in preparation for operational deployment and are proud to be playing an important role helping to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973.”
Since Christmas, HMS Bangor has been put through her paces on operational sea training in preparation for a deployment with the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 to the North Sea, which had been planned for later this year, the UK Ministry of Defence has announced.
HMS Bangor has also completed a major maintenance period, gearing the ship up to sail from UK waters for six months.
Built of glass-reinforced plastic, HMS Bangor’s design ensures that the ship is extremely quiet and has a very low magnetic signature, essential when operating in a minefield.
Equipped with the precise navigation and manoeuvring systems, which allow her to ‘hover’ over a fixed point and search for mines with a variable depth sonar – capable of detecting ordnance at depths in excess of 200 metres, Bangor can also deploy her clearance divers or advanced submersible to deal with mines or suspicious objects.
Other foreign warships have been involved in mine clearing operations off Libya’s coast. A French frigate on April 29 detected four small boats dropping three sea mines in the approach to Misrata, causing humanitarian shipping to be obstructed. Since then, NATO mine-countermeasures vessels swept the area for mines.
Within 24 hours of the mines being sighted by the French frigate, the HMS Brocklesby arrived on the scene and destroyed one of the mines. She used her sonar and Seafox mine destruction system to destroy the weapon, which contained 100 kg of explosives.
From early May the Dutch minehuner HNLMS Haarlem began searching for mines in the waters off the Libyan coast, after a request from NATO. HNLMS Haarlem had been in the area since March 28 after the Dutch government decided that the Netherlands would participate in the NATO enforcement of the UN arms embargo against Libya.
Around the same time, the Belgian government also decided to deploy a minehunter of Misrata. This is the BNS Narcis, which has been in the area since March as part of UN operations in the region.
The HNLMS Haarlem, HMS Brocklesby and BNS Narcis are part of NATO’s Mine Countermeasures Group 1, which is one of two standing mine countermeasures forces maintained by NATO. Other ships in the group include the ORP Kontradmiral X Czernicki (Poland) and FGS Datteln (Germany).
At the beginning of this month, five Royal Navy ships broken off from long-planned exercises in the Mediterranean and joined 20 Allied warships already enforcing a blockade and supporting the no-fly zone over Libya.
The flagship HMS Albion, escorting frigate HMS Sutherland, tanker RFA Wave Knight and one-stop support ship RFA Fort Rosalie were ordered to waters off Libya in support of the NATO-led/UN-endorsed operation. Britain has already committed destroyer HMS Liverpool and minehunter HMS Brocklesby to the Libyan mission; and two weeks ago sent the Navy’s HMS Ocean amphibious assault ship to the region.
The HMS Ocean carries British Army Apaches, which were launched again on Saturday, against a multiple launch rocket system positioned on the Libyan coast near Brega. The attack helicopters used Hellfire missiles to destroy their target before returning safely to the ship. As before, these missions were supported by other NATO aircraft, including RAF Sentry, Sentinel and Nimrod surveillance aircraft, and VC-10 tankers.
Since the start of military operations to enforce UNSCR 1973, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army Air Corps assets have successfully attacked over 400 targets in Libya that were deemed to be persecuting or involved in persecuting the civilian population.