She’s due back in Portsmouth today after spending nine months fighting Islamic terrorists in the Middle East. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for families finally reunited with loved ones have served onboard HMS Defender.
The Type 45 destroyer has primarily been working with American and French carrier strike groups as part of ongoing operations against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
During her 263 days away from the UK, Defender has visited 19 ports in 11 countries.
She has participated in two major international maritime exercises, represented the UK at the International Indian Fleet review, and conducted numerous boarding operations resulting in one major drugs bust, while carrying out her primary role providing air command and control support to two international carrier strike groups in the Gulf.
Those are just some of the impressive facts about HMS Defender’s role in the Middle East.
Political reporter MILES O’LEARY reveals 30 more interesting facts about the vessel and the work she’s been doing.
1 HMS Defender is the fifth of the Royal Navy’s six Type 45 destroyers.
2 Last month while working on counter narcotics and counter terrorist operations, the destroyer intercepted a suspect fishing dhow off the south coast of Oman.
After the dhow was secured by a Royal Marines boarding team with the support of HMS Defender’s Lynx helicopter, a navy search team seized more than a tonne of hashish being trafficked across the Indian Ocean.
3 The ship has travelled 47,538 nautical miles, the equivalent of going more than twice around the world.
4 To cover this distance, she has used 10,551,000 litres of fuel, enough to fill 4.2 Olympic-size swimming pools.
5 It’s not just the ship that requires fuelling. During the deployment the 248 sailors on board have consumed 75,600 eggs, 19,000 kg of potatoes, or the equivalent of 16 mini Coopers, and 54,720 sausages weighing 3,420kg, which would cover three miles if laid end to end.
6 Defender has played an important role in furthering UK defence engagement and has hosted five capability demonstrations supporting British industry and defence diplomacy, welcoming a total of 1,400 guests.
7 These included VIPs such as the Crown Prince of Bahrain, British ambassadors and defence attachés, as well as numerous representatives from foreign militaries and British industries.
8 Defender can carry up to 700 people in support of civilian evacuation.
9 Her Sea Viper missiles are the size of a telephone box, weigh two-thirds as much as a small car and accelerate from launch to a speed twice that of Concorde in under 10 seconds.
10 Her weapons system is able to track more than 2,000 targets and simultaneously control and co-ordinate multiple missiles in the air at once, allowing a large number of tracks to be intercepted and destroyed at any given time.
11 A core component of the PAAMS air-defence system is the Aster missile, comprising of the Aster 15 and Aster 30.
MBDA describes Aster as a ‘hit-to-kill’ anti-missile missile capable of intercepting all types of high performance air threats at a maximum range of 120km.
12 Defender’s hull is made of 2,800 tonnes of steel – more than the weight of Blackpool Tower.
13 40 tonnes of paint covering 100,000 square metres of steel has been applied to the vessel.
14 At 152m she is longer than 16 double-decker buses and she is as high as an electricity pylon.
15 Her onboard power plant can supply enough electricity to light a town of 80,000 people.
16 Her fuel tanks are roughly half as big as an Olympic swimming pool.
17 She has 220 beds, 26 sofa beds, 22 single beds and her own hospital facilities complete with operating table.
18 There are 44 showers, 54 toilets, 100 wash basins and one bath onboard.
19 Defender’s electrical cable could circle the M25 three times.
20 Defender’s construction began at the BAE Systems Naval Ships (now part of BAE Systems Surface Ships yard at Govan on the River Clyde in July 2006. The launch date was 21 October 2009.
21 On 21 October 2011, she left Scotstoun shipyard in Glasgow on her maiden voyage exactly two years to the day after she was launched, to conduct her first stage of sea trials.
22 Defender sailed 700 miles from Portsmouth to the north east of Scotland on 19 December 2013 to meet a Russian task group of six ships including the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and escorted them down the east coast of Scotland.
23 In November, 2015, it was announced Defender would deploy alongside France’s Charles de Gaulle carrier battle group, deployed off the coast of Syria as an air defence escort, after France’s activation of article 42.7 of the European Union Treaty.
24 The Type 45 destroyers are primarily designed for anti-air warfare with the capability to defend against sophisticated targets such as fighter aircraft, drones as well as highly manoeuvrable sea skimming anti-ship missiles travelling at supersonic speeds.
25 Destroyers are part of the backbone of the Royal Navy, committed around the world 365 days a year hunting pirates, drug runners or submarines, defending the fleet from air attack, and providing humanitarian aid after natural disasters.
26 The Royal Navy describes the destroyers’ mission as being ‘to shield the Fleet from air attack’.
27 There have been seven previous ships of this name. The first was a 12-gun brig that was disposed of in 1802 during the Peace of Amiens.
28 The third Defender was a captured French privateer, previously the Beau Marseille.
Captured by HMS Royalist, she was sold in 1814.
29 The fourth Defender was a second-class colonial torpedo boat, and can still be seen on display at the Torpedo Boat Museum in Lyttleton, New Zealand.
30 The penultimate HMS Defender detected the wreck of the Prince of Wales off Malaysia, supported operations at Suez in 1956, and took part in the Coronation Review of 1953.