Today HMS Daring returned to Portsmouth after 9 months away, visiting 12 countries and steaming 50,000 miles. Another warship completing a Gulf tour could be considered somewhat routine for the RN but it demonstrates the Type 45 destroyers are reliable mature platforms, the enduring global reach of the RN and the conclusion to a job well done.
Daring sailed from Portsmouth on 2nd September 2016. She arrived to a warm welcome in Gibraltar where RN vessels help provide reassurance to the population while Spain continues to make illegal incursions in Gibraltar waters. Daring then sailed for a short stop-over in Malta. Sadly a member of the ship’s company, LET Simon Allen was killed in a car accident while ashore.
After passing through the Suez Canal, Daring joined ships of the RN’s Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) (JEF(M)), escorting HMS Bulwark, HMS Ocean, and MV Eddystone Point. American aircraft carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower handed over her role as flagship of Task Force 50 to HMS Ocean. Daring was part of this group of 7 warships, primarily conducting anti-ISIS and maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf. As well as providing air defence to the task group, Daring helped protect from the threat of waterborne attack, carrying boarding parties to counter piracy, terrorism and smuggling.
There has been a continuous RN presence in the Gulf since the 1980s but the civil war in Yemen has created new threats in the Red Sea around the Bab-al-Mandeb strait. HMS Daring conducted 20 separate escort journeys through the strait, protecting a total of 800,000 tonnes of merchant shipping. This critical sea lane has become one of the most dangerous in the world. In October 2016 USS Mason shot down missiles fired at her from Yemen by Houti rebels. The US Navy quickly responded with a Tomahawk missile strike on the suspected launch sites (a capability HMS Daring could and should be fitted with). In January 2017 a Saudi Arabian Frigate Al Madinah was damaged when she was rammed by an unmanned craft packed with explosives. In April 2017 crude sea mines were discovered off the coast of Yemen.
In January 2017 HMS Daring had her mid-deployment break in Bahrain which allows personnel to fly home for two weeks leave or fly friends and family out to the Gulf. She also changed commanding officer, Cdr Philip Dennis handed over to Cdr Marcus Hember.
Daring left the Gulf region in April and passed through the Bosphorus, entering the Black Sea for brief visits to Constanta in Romania and Varna in Bulgaria. She spent time conducting training at sea with the Romanian Navy and Air Force. Although brief, such diplomatic visits by RN vessels help reassure our partners in the region of NATO’s commitment to their defence and remind Russia that the Black Sea is not ‘their lake’. The final call on the way home was a low-key visit to Barcelona, although the residents of Gibraltar would have preferred she had stopped there, rather than in Spain.
Serving in the heat of the Red Sea and Arabain Gulf, HMS Daring once again has proved the Type 45’s notoriously over-reported propulsion issues do not seriously hamper her capabilities, even in high threat environments. The range and power of the Sampson radar is able to provide early warning of threats, backed up by her mach 4.5 Sea Viper missiles that give confidence to vessels under its protective umbrella. The Type 45 is the world’s best air defence destroyer is not just public relations hyperbole, but consistently proven on operations and well recognised by the other navies.
Mainly for reasons of operational security, media and official coverage of Daring’s work in the Red Sea has been patchy but this kind of work deserves greater recognition. As an island nation, it is particularly important that we are able to maintain the flow of vessels that carry energy, goods and food to our shores. The Bab-al-Mandeb and other narrow maritime ‘choke points’ around the world are vulnerable to closure or obstruction and only naval forces can protect them. The need for more efficient transport of goods by sea is driving the construction of ever-larger merchant vessels. The sinking of just a few of these ships, each carrying millions of pounds worth of cargo could have a significant global economic impact. Closing any one the world’s maritime choke points would cause delays which could lead to shortages and price rises.
The UK’s vulnerability to the disruption of maritime trade is generally given insufficient consideration when debating the resources provided to the Royal Navy.
The ship’s company of HMS Daring must be congratulated on their work while overcoming the loss of a shipmate and maintaining the RN’s high standards. Operating in confined waters East of Suez demands long, sometimes boring periods at action stations or in defence watches. Welcome home and enjoy your leave.
For a lively alternative view from the home front, you can follow the Olive Oyl Navy Wife blog, written by a partner of a sailor serving aboard HMS Daring about the joys and sorrows of naval family life.
- HMS Daring to sail back into Portsmouth after nine months at sea (Portsmouth News)
- Royal Navy protects shipping in the Middle East (Royal Navy )
- Yemeni Officials Warn of Mine Threat in Red Sea (worldmaritimenews.com)