SAILORS from a Royal Navy warship will return to Portsmouth with a bang this week after two months operating in the Mediterranean.
HMS Diamond will fire a 17-gun salute as she sails back into her home port of Portsmouth on Friday morning.
The Type 45 destroyer had been deployed to the Med as part of the ongoing Nato mission to battle Islamist extremists in the region.
The £1bn destroyer was a critical part of the international effort. The air defence destroyer used her state-of-the-art technology to safeguard the sky, allowing Nato forces to operate safely.
She is one of just several Royal Navy warships to operate in the Eastern Mediterranean last year.
As well as the counter-terrorism operations, Diamond also held port visits to Crete, Cyprus, Malta and Gibraltar to reinforce the Royal Navy’s long-standing links with those countries.
Commander Ben Keith, Diamond’s commanding officer, said: ‘This has been a challenging, but extremely rewarding and successful deployment. I’m proud of all that my ship’s company has achieved while we’ve been away and I’m incredibly grateful to Diamond’s extended family for all their support.’
Diamond is expected to return into the city at about 11.30am, firing her explosive salute near Spitbank Fort, in the Solent, beforehand.
The 17-gun tribute will be the first Cdr Keith has fired as a captain of a ship. It will be honouring the head of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones.
As well as helping the Nato mission against Islamic State, Diamond also tightened her links with RAF assets in the region.
The 7,350-tonne warship and her 200 crew were tested by fighter jets including Tornados, Typhoons and F-16s, plus E3 surveillance aircraft and Voyager transporters in the skies above and around Cyprus.
And during her time in the Med, Diamond spent a week flexing her muscles during a live-firing exercise.
She was able to blast her 4.5in gun and 30mm guns, as well as her rapid-fire Phalanx air defence system – which can spew thousands of bullets a minute to destroy incoming missiles.
Cdr Keith added: ‘This proves our ability to deploy, operate and sustain ourselves for however long is required. Type 45s are one of the cornerstones of our modern navy and this training enables us to demonstrate our ability to exercise and operate with armed forces both internationally and across defence.’