Royal Navy warship HMS Albion helps test powers of new specialist French ship
ONE of Britain’s biggest warships was towed through the channel to help the French test the power of a new specialist ship.
The FS Garonne hauled huge assault ship HMS Albion past the coast of Devon to assess its pulling strength and abilities – as well as hone Anglo-French naval co-operation and the Royal Navy’s own emergency procedures.
The Garonne is one of four new specialist Loire-class support ships built for the French Navy designed to provide a multitude of services, from supporting diving operations and dealing with pollution in the aftermath of a spillage at sea, to assisting submarines and surface ships, including salvage operations.
With Portsmouth-based HMS Queen Elizabeth deployed and her sister Prince of Wales undergoing maintenance in Portsmouth Naval Base, the next largest British warship HMS Albion – 18,500 tonnes, 176 metres long, 29 wide – acted as the ‘breakdown victim’ to test the Garonne’s towing ability.
David Price, the Salvage and Marine Operations representative onboard Plymouth-based HMS Albion, said: ‘Exercises such as this are fundamental to ensuring an enduring seamanship capability between international maritime partners is maintained. This tested HMS Albion’s ability to be towed safely in the event of an emergency.’
The Plymouth-based amphibious assault ship pretended to be dead in the water in the channel – with the Garonne throwing her a line.
Commander James Walton, HMS Albion’s second in command, added: ‘Our French naval counterparts are highly skilled and professional – it was a delight working with them.
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‘The ability to integrate quickly and effectively with international partners is a key component to operating as a global navy, supporting global Britain.’
Before participating in the towing exercise, Garonne carried out intensive trials and training to prove her ability to work with NATO’s Submarine Rescue System (NSRS).
The jointly owned UK, French and Norwegian system is capable of diving down to a submarine in distress, docking with the escape hatches and carrying out an evacuation.
On top of this joint working, last month destroyer HMS Dragon also took part in an intensive workout with French warships and air power off the Brest peninsula, Exercise Sky Sharks, to ensure greater integration between the two navies.