HMS Defender took part in simultaneously six-ship refuelling and resupply in the middle of the Gulf as she supported US strikes against the forces of Daesh.
The Portsmouth-based destroyer is providing both air cover and an aerial picture of Middle East as the USS Harry S Truman battle group carries out bombing raids.
COMMANDER Steve Higham glances over his shoulder as his ship, HMS Defender, sails side-by-side with Carrier Fixed Wing (Nuclear Propulsion) 75 – better known as USS Harry S Truman.
Both the RN’s major assets east of Suez – the Type 45 destroyer and frigate HMS St Albans – took their place alongside carrier task groups in the ongoing fight.
Defender is helping both to shield the Truman from aerial threats and help direct air strikes against the forces of Daesh (the title now favoured for the so-called Islamic State) by providing an unparalleled radar picture of Gulf skies.
Given the near-constant effort against Daesh – codenamed Shader, Inherent Resolve and Chammal respectively by Britain, the US and France – port visits are few and far between for the destroyer, so she’s been taking on board supplies at sea, either courtesy of our own floating petrol stations/warehouses (see left) or the Americans’... who do it on a rather larger scale.
The Truman and Defender take fuel from the USNS Pecos (centre)
Like a six-ship RAS: Defender, the Truman, the cruiser Anzio, the destroyer Ramage and supply vessels USNS Pecos (tanker) and Medgar Evers (dry stores).
The complex manoeuvre involved both the aircraft carrier and Defender coming alongside the Pecos to refuel, whilst at the same time stores were transported to the flat-top from the Medgar Evers by helicopter.
“Passing fuel lines at sea is a dangerous job – two ships sailing less than 50 metres apart, while still travelling at 14 knots,” explained Lt Barry Crosswood, Defender’s navigator.
“This gets more complicated when there is a third ship on the other side of the tanker, especially when that ship is an enormous aircraft carrier displacing 100,000 tons of water!”
US Seahawks ferry stores around in a 'vert rep'
He continued: “Replenishing in an operational environment really focuses the mind – particularly when the task force is in such close proximity. The vast size and number of vessels involved is a real credit to international co-operation.”
His ship took on 500,000 litres of fuel (9,000 family cars worth), whilst the Truman received enough fuel to power her entire embarked air wing of F-18 fast jets.
And at the same time, the helicopters transferred 2,500 tonnes of stores (just under one third of Defender’s weight) to the deck of the US carrier.