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HMS Ocean waves bye-bye
Royal Navy, Issue 1473
hms-ocean.jpg
BRAZIL NUTS: HMS Ocean, whose £64m refit in 2014 should have prolonged service by a decade, has just been flogged off for £84m
SO. FAREWELL then HMS Ocean. The former Royal Navy helicopter carrier was renamed PHM Atlantico this month after being sold to Brazil for just £84m. Admirals fear that another round of Ministry of Defence cuts dressed up as “modernisation” will see further sacrifices of amphibious and support assets.

In recent years the MoD has developed a habit of selling relatively new, recently modernised or valuable ships for well under their market value, in an attempt to fill the hole in their budget. As defence secretary, Philip Hammond boasted in 2012 that he had solved the problem of a £38bn black hole in UK defence spending and that a programme of cuts and procurement changes would balance the books for the first time in a decade. However, the National Audit Office warned earlier this year that the MoD still faces a shortfall of at least £5bn in its equipment budget.

HMS Ocean was decommissioned in March after just 20 years in service and a £64m refit in 2014 that should have allowed it to stay in service until the late 2020s. It has a capability that can’t be replaced by the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. Squarebasher reported last year (Eye 1454) that it was up for sale and Brazil’s purchase was confirmed in February, with the ship being modified by UK firms before heading to its new home.

Sold to Australia
The government has form in this area. RFA Largs Bay, a landing ship that had only served five years in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) from 2006-11, was sold to Australia following the 2010 strategic defence and security review. It now serves as HMAS Choules.

A Brazilian news site now reports that the Brazilian navy has been notified that the UK also plans to sell one of the RFA’s Wave-class tankers (either Wave Knight or Wave Ruler, which provide supplies to other navy vessels and deliver humanitarian relief) next year. The MoD denies that either is for sale or that there have been any discussions with the Brazilian government.

The MoD is also retiring smaller vessels early. The offshore patrol vessel HMS Severn was decommissioned last October after only 14 years in service, with sister ships Mersey and Clyde due to follow next year. In 2016, RFA Diligence, the navy’s only forward repair ship, was granted early retirement, not long after an expensive refit that should have allowed the vessel to continue operating to at least 2020.

Concerns have now been raised by parliament’s defence committee about the possibility of decommissioning the navy’s two remaining amphibious ships, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, to save money. The ships were only commissioned in 2003 and 2004 respectively and provide an amphibious landing capability not replicated elsewhere. The MoD says both are due to stay in service until 2033-34, but the modernising programme could change all that.

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