Royal Navy: HMS Queen Elizabeth's maiden mission to the Far East a 'huge success' despite engine woes of Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond
LESSONS have been learned about deploying the Royal Navy’s mighty carrier strike group across the globe following the breakdown of a £1bn warship within the task force, a defence boss has said.
Jon Pearson, director of warship support at BAE Systems in Portsmouth, insisted aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth’s maiden mission to the Far East and back had been a ‘massive success’.
But he conceded the seven-month odyssey had not been all smooth sailing, with one of the fleet’s key escorts, HMS Diamond, breaking down within weeks of leaving Portsmouth.
The £1bn Type 45 destroyer suffered a major setback in July when her engines failed near Italy.
About 30 technicians from BAE Systems were flown to Italy to help with repairs, with the vast majority coming from Portsmouth.
Their tireless efforts saw Diamond’s propulsion system replaced and the ship back underway to continue her job bodyguarding HMS Queen Elizabeth in a matter of weeks.
Speaking exclusively to The News ahead of the £3.2bn aircraft carrier’s triumphant return to Portsmouth later this month, Jon paid tribute to his team – as he insisted lessons had been learned.
‘Every operational defect that impacts any ship’s ability to carry out it’s tasking is very important to us,’ he said. ‘My teams stand by to deal with anything that occurs.
‘Diamond had a well-publicised issue earlier in the deployment.
‘We deployed 30 guys to southern Italy to sort that issue out as quickly as they could so the ship could carry out with her deployment.’
Jon added: ‘Everyday is a school day. We spend an awful lot of time analysing where things have gone well and where they have not gone so well so we can put them right the next time.
‘We will deploy in support of the navy more and more in the coming years as the Royal Navy expands its global footprint.’
More than 100 engineers and technicians from across BAE Systems and its partners were deployed across the world to support the naval task group.
The ambitious mission saw a team of 40 experts delivering planned maintenance to HMS Queen Elizabeth during a stop at Guam.
It was a hugely ambitious mission, complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, which made it a logistical nightmare to plan.
But Jon insisted the efforts of his team and those of its partners had silenced Britain’s critics about deploying a carrier strike group on such a large operation.
‘I think through our lens we have proven the sceptics wrong,’ Jon added. ‘There were always going to be sceptics and people with opinions.
‘But you have just got to get on and do your job. We are trusted by the Royal Navy to lead the support to HMS Queen Elizabeth and Type 45 and work with Babcock to support the Type 23s around the world.’
The first of the carrier strike group to return home, tanker RFA Tidespring, arrived in the UK last week.
Jon added emotions on the naval base were running high ahead of the imminent arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth to the city.
‘There’s lots of emotion there, he added. ‘I am always hugely proud when I see ships arrive back in Portsmouth from a successful deployment
‘Everybody in the dockyard and maritime services is enormously proud of the support that they give to the navy. We all feel part of one family - part of “Team Portsmouth”.’