Upgraded Royal Navy warship sets sail for the Gulf armed with new mine-hunting tech

AN UPGRADED warship fitted with new state-of-the-art mine-hunting technology has set sail for the Middle East.

By Tom Cotterill
Monday, 26th July 2021, 1:21 pm
Updated Monday, 26th July 2021, 1:32 pm

HMS Middleton departed Portsmouth today to carry out operations 6,000 miles away in the Gulf, where she will be based for the next two years.

The Hunt-class vessel’s deployment comes after 18 months in refit, where she was upgraded with the Oceanographic Reconnaissance Combat Architecture system – or ‘ORCA’, for short.

Middleton is the first in the fleet to be kitted out with the world-class tech, which has improved her ability to locate and destroy mines.

HMS Middleton sets off from Portsmouth for her latest deployment to the Gulf. Photo: Royal Navy

Petty Officer Luke Brady, one of the ship’s two mine hunting directors, said: ‘ORCA makes it so much easier to find and identify underwater contacts.

‘This means we can classify objects as threatening or non-threatening without necessarily having to send our remote-controlled submersible, Seafox, to investigate further, saving us time and allowing us to focus on clearing genuine mines.’

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The first crew to be deploying in Middleton are MCM2 Crew 7, who have recently completed their operational sea training off the coast of Scotland.

The intensive one-month training package put the crew through their paces, from dealing with fires and floods, through to gunnery training and counter-mine warfare.

Leading Engineering Technician Reid said the sea training was a ‘great opportunity for people to learn and hone the skills they need to keep the ship floating and fighting’.

‘Despite feeling exhausted by the end of it, we were all also really happy to have passed with good scores.’ he added.

Although the ship will be based in the Gulf for two years, crews will rotate regularly, spending four-month stints on deployment.

Covid-19 restrictions prevented the traditional pomp and ceremony to mark the ship’s departure.

However, families gathered along the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth to wave-off their loved ones.

Lieutenant Commander Neil Skinner, Middleton’s captain, said: ‘This has been an extremely long journey to reach this point. The major upgrades achieved in HMS Middleton are testament to the hard work and collaboration between the Royal Navy, BAE Systems, and their supporting partners.

‘However, it would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the crew, supported by their incredible families and friends.

‘They have all maintained their focus and sense of humour in some difficult and challenging circumstances, and now thoroughly deserve the reward of sailing such a capable vessel out on operations. I could not be more proud of the team.’

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