Royal Navy: Minehunters HMS Blyth and HMS Pembroke sold to Romania in bid to combat threat from Russia during Ukraine war

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Two Royal Navy minehunters have been sold to Romania to try and combat Russian aggression.

Sandown-class vessels HMS Blyth and HMS Pembroke have both been sold to the Eastern European country. The Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA), who dispose of vessels and vehicles no longer needed by the UK, carried out the process on behalf of defence secretary Grant Shapps.

Other minehunters have also been sold. HMS Quorn, HMS Dulverton and HMS Cottesmore have been transferred to Lithuania, with HMS Sandown, HMS Inverness and HMS Bridport being sold to Estonia.

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Romania is a member of Nato. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is continuing, and drifting mines pose a direct threat to Black Sea states, and sea lines of communication. Romania having the warships boosts their security.

L to R: HMS Pembroke and HMS Blyth.L to R: HMS Pembroke and HMS Blyth.
L to R: HMS Pembroke and HMS Blyth.

Personnel at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) have been working alongside shipbuilder Babcock to refurbish the minehunters before they are transferred to their new owners.

Individual operator and maintainer training via Navy International Defence Training (IDT) and collective training via Fleet Operational Sea Training (FOST) will be contributed by the navy. James Cartlidge, Minister for Defence Procurement, said: “Given the current geo-political climate, the UK’s relationship with its NATO allies is more important than ever.

"This agreement with Romania is the latest strategic relationship we have strengthened, providing their navy with a new capability and, crucially, making a real contribution to security in the Black Sea region.”

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HMS Blyth. Picture: LPHOT Stevie Burke/Royal Navy.HMS Blyth. Picture: LPHOT Stevie Burke/Royal Navy.
HMS Blyth. Picture: LPHOT Stevie Burke/Royal Navy.

The former Sandown Class ships are 52.5m long, weigh 485 tonnes and have a range of more than 2,500 nautical miles without refuelling. HMS Blyth was decommissioned. HMS Blyth was decommissioned in 2021, and HMS Pembroke will be retired in early 2024.

Both vessels use high-definition sonar to scour the world’s seabeds for mines and lost explosives. These are then safely destroyed by the ship’s clearance diving teams or the ATLAS Seafox mine disposal system.

The vessels can also be used as a security deterrent to protection sea lanes. HMS Blyth was one of four Navy mine-hunters permanently stationed in the Gulf.

She has also been deployed in the Baltic Sea in the past. One of the greatest successes of HMS Pembroke was safely disposing of a Russian mine from the First World War.

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A remote underwater vehicle was deployed to identify the device off the coast of Lithuania before it was safely disposed of. DESA Head Richard Whalley said: “Our dedicated sales team continue to find new homes for the retired Royal Navy Sandown Class ships and I am pleased to see HMS Blyth and HMS Pembroke preparing for their new roles.

“This agreement highlights the strong relationship we have with our allies and feeds into NATO’s collective mission of supporting global security.” DESA are still trying to sell two other minehunters – HMS Penzance and HMS Bangor.

The ships will be replaced by autonomous mine-hunting systems operating from RFA Stirling Castle. HMS Blyth has already been transferred to Romania, with HMS Pembroke being passed on next Spring.

The futures of other ships are up in the air. The decommissioned warship HMS Montrose has also been listed for sale by the Minister of Defence (MoD), but for recycling and parts only.

HMS Monmouth, HMS Bristol and HMS Walney are also listed.