Task Group 326.03 – made of patrol ships HMS Tamar and Spey – sailed into the US Navy’s principal west coast base bringing some dazzle to the Californian sunshine.
The distinctively-painted duo – which have adopted the wartime ‘dazzle paint’ camouflage scheme to make them stand out – will spend a few days in the city, before striking out across 2,600 miles of the Pacific for their first major stop of their deployment: Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.
Since leaving Portsmouth in early September, the ships crossed the Atlantic together and briefly linked up with their sister HMS Medway which is assigned to the Caribbean long term.
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Tamar then visited Curacao while Spey took ventured to Cartagena, Colombia for a defence engagement event.
Sailors had the chance to experience life in the bustling port city - the first visiting ship’s company to do so in Colombia since the pandemic began – and were invited to their host’s naval academy.
Collectively nicknamed ‘Speymar’ by the 90 or so sailors aboard the vessels, the sisters reunited to take ‘the path between the seas’ – the 50-mile passage through the Panama Canal between the Atlantic and their ‘new playground’ of the Pacific.
Their patrol area embraces the entire Indo-Pacific region – from the eastern seaboard of Africa to the western coast of the Americas.
Their mission is equally as vast: from promoting UK interests and security, to combating terrorism, criminality and providing humanitarian aid following disasters.
‘In many respects HMS Tamar and HMS Spey represent the vanguard of the Royal Navy’s contribution to a global Britain and the promotion of our country’s prosperity overseas,’ said Commander Teilo Elliot-Smith, task force commander commanding officer of HMS Tamar,
‘I am incredibly proud of the combined efforts of our ship’s companies to generate this task group in record time and then take two brand-new ships half-way around the world to operate at range from our usual support networks.’
Once in the western Pacific, the duo will be the navy’s first permanent presence in the region in a quarter of a century.
Not since HMS Tamar – the base in Hong Kong – closed when the colony was returned to China in 1997 has the UK consistently operated warships in the Indo-Pacific region, though the new ships will not have a specific base, instead using ports and harbours throughout the Pacific Rim for maintenance.
The duo are planned to be deployed for five to ten years, paving the way for similar operations by the future Type 31 frigates currently under construction.