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Royal NavyRoyal Navy

HMS Cornwall at Falmouth, July 2006
HMS Bangor in the Norwegian Fjords
HMS Gloucester Evacuates Beirut - 18/07/06

The Royal Navy surface flotilla numbers over fifty ships consisting of:

The surface fleet is supported by the ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). The RFA is a civilian manned fleet, owned by the Ministry of Defence. Its main task is to supply warships of the Royal Navy at sea with the fuel, food, stores and ammunition that they need to remain operational whilst away from base.

Frigates and Destroyers

The Royal Navy's frigates and destroyers are the workhorses of the Fleet. They have the ability to operate independently or as part of a Task Group where they use their highly effective weapons and sensors suite to defend the high value ships in the group; frigates to defend against submarine and surface threats and destroyers defending against airborne attack.

In addition to this primary role, their communications systems and embarked helicopter ideally suit them to a wide range of non-warfighting tasks such as:

  • Policing Maritime Boundaries
  • Sanctions Monitoring
  • Protection of UK, allied and neutral shipping
  • Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Operations
  • Defence Diplomacy with friendly nations

The Royal Navy's Frigate and Destroyer Fleets contribute to nearly every task that the Service is required to perform. These versatile and powerful vessels are multi purpose platforms, which can perform a wide range of roles across the full spectrum of maritime operations.

Mine Countermeasures

The Royal Navy boasts a genuinely world class mine countermeasures fleet. Mines are an ever-present threat to naval operations and to the UK's merchant fleet. They are a cheap but highly effective method that can be used by a hostile state to deny access to their territorial waters. The UK's Mine Countermeasures capability exists to guarantee safe water for warships and merchant vessels, both at home and abroad, to conduct their operations.

There are 2 classes of ship in the mine countermeasures flotilla, Hunt and Sandown . Both classes use sonar to detect mines, a technique known as minehunting. The Hunt Class has a hull-mounted sonar while the Sandown has a world leading variable depth sonar. Both classes of ship carry Remote Control Mine Disposal Vehicles and a team of divers to dispose of any mines they find. The Hunt Class also work in the minesweeping role; destroying buoyant mines by cutting the mooring wires with a towed wire sweep and then blowing up the buoyant case on the surface and dealing with ground mines on the seabed by using influence sweeps that simulate noise and magnetic signature to detonate the mine.

Hydrographic and Ice Patrol Vessels

These ships gather a wide cross-section of hydrographic and other environmental data to support British forces operating worldwide. The information from surveys is also used for producing Admiralty charts and nautical publications that have a worldwide sale and are used by ships of many nations.

The Surveying Flotilla consists of ocean-going ships, coastal vessels and inshore craft. In addition to surveying in overseas areas, ships of the flotilla are constantly engaged in updating the charts covering the waters around the United Kingdom. To carry out these wide-ranging tasks the latest surveying techniques are employed, including digitised echo sounders, side scan sonars, automated plotting and recording of position, depth, gravity and magnetic parameters.

HMS Endurance has a unique role as the Antarctic Ice Patrol Vessel. Each southern summer Endurance deploys to the British Antarctic Territory and Falkland Islands Dependencies, and supports British interests in the region. The UK Antarctic hydrographic survey programme is the most substantial in the area, resulting in benefits to safe navigation and prevention of damage to the environment. Endurance also provides support to the British Antarctic Survey and conducts hydrographic surveys and other scientific research around the Falkland Islands.

Fishery protection and patrol vessels

The primary task of these vessels is that of fishery protection and patrolling Britain's offshore gas and oilfield installations. The Royal Navy currently has 2 different types of patrol vessel: Castle , and River Class. These ships generally operate in UK waters although they can operate further a field and one of the vessels is generally on long-term patrol duties off the Falkland Islands.