THE sun pierces the clouds over the Solent as HMS Hurworth begins a new lease of life following a year-long revamp.
The Portsmouth-based ship put to sea for the first time in 12 months to begin the journey to becoming Britain’s most advanced minehunter – 30 years after she entered service.
Thanks to the fibre-glass construction of Hurworth and her sisters in the Hunt class, the hulls last much longer than traditional RN ships – while equipment and systems inside can be replaced, allowing the vessels to remain at the forefront of minehunting.
Ripped out during the refit were three large Rolls-Royce Deltic engines and in their place are two new Caterpillar Acer C32 engines.
After completing a series of engine trials in Portsmouth Naval Base, the ship’s 45 crew took her to sea for a week of trials and training.
Beyond running in the Caterpillars, the first spell at sea saw trainers from the navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training organisation throw in mock fires and floods, man-overboard, engine and steering breakdowns to see whether the sailors were up to operating a warship safely.
After that the ship moved on to coastal navigation, diving operations and launching her Seafox – a small remote-controlled submersible used to locate, identify and blow up mines.
An unexpected highlight of the week at sea was impromptu training with the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter, whose crew contacted Hurworth to practise winching.
They practised lowering and recovering a crew member from the minehunter’s stern – its cluttered nature is ideal for simulating the challenge of lifting a sailor from a fishing vessel, and it allowed Hurworth’s crew to hone skills which may in an emergency save someone’s life.
‘The wonders of modern propulsion technology have shown quite how much life remains in these brilliant little ships – and equally how much they can contribute to the defence of the UK, maritime security and diplomacy,’ said Lt Cdr Tom Trent, Hurworth’s commanding officer.
‘With new engines and new communication systems, this 30-year-old ship is now, nearly, back to full operating capability.’