Navy’s vital role keeping sea lanes clear

HMS Dragon leads the quartet of Her Majesty's minehunters Ramsey, Shoreham, Quorn and Atherstone for collective training off Bahrain.
HMS Dragon leads the quartet of Her Majesty's minehunters Ramsey, Shoreham, Quorn and Atherstone for collective training off Bahrain.
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When it comes down to keeping the world’s most vital sea lanes open for business, the Royal Navy’s minehunters have one of the most important roles.

With their sonar, underwater mine disposal vehicles, and embarked divers, their time is dedicated to finding and destroying anything which might cause harm to traffic.

They are also the largest ships in the world to be made of glass reinforced plastic, a design feature which reduces the ship’s magnetic signature.

As reported in The News, HMS Dragon is on security patrol in the Gulf.

After breaking away from the USS Nimitz and her carrier strike group, the Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer linked up with the quartet of minehunters permanently stationed in the region.

The five ships have vastly different roles.

HMS Dragon is all about air defence, while the minehunters do as their name suggests.

There are currently two minehunters from Portsmouth operating in the region — HMS Quorn and HMS Atherstone.

HMS Quorn is the last of 13 Hunt-class Mine Counter Measures Vessels.

Sub Lieutenant James Dutt, 22, is the navigator on board.

He said: ‘It has been challenging, and very hot and sweaty, but it’s been good fun.

‘We have achieved what we came out here to do, and we’re doing our job.

‘HMS Quorn and the other minehunters are here for a number of reasons.

‘Sea trade is vital to the UK economy, and as well as that, the amount of natural resources coming from this part of the world is quite high.

‘Being able to keep the sea lanes open in this part of the world is very important.

‘It’s also a chance to work with international partners out here.

‘We have a lot of allies in this part of the world, and we need to make sure we maintain those relationships.’

For Sub Lt Dutt, the warm waters of the Gulf are a home away from home.

He was brought up in Dubai, and decided to join the navy after Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose went alongside there.

‘I grew up in Dubai and I joined the navy because HMS Montrose stopped off in port,’ he said.

‘I went on board, I was 11, I saw a big gun and they gave me bourbon biscuits, and that was enough to make me sign up.

‘I like to think my reasons for joining matured slightly as I got older, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time.

‘Coming back here four years later and actually doing the job is good fun.’

The Royal Navy maintains a permanent minehunter presence in the gulf, with the ships rarely returning to their home bases.

Instead, the ship’s crews are rotated every six months or so.

This story is part of a series of special reports by defence correspondent Sam Bannister on board HMS Dragon in the Gulf. Click here to see the full series.