Half a dozen tugs carefully moved assault ship HMS Albion from the inner basins at Devonport to Weston Lake – raising the curtain on the final stages of her regeneration.
After two years of extensive work inside and out to breathe new life into the ship – put into extended readiness following the 2010 Defence Review – the Lion is nearly ready for sea trials.
Pictures: LPhot Caroline Davies, FRPU West
TUG Faithful helps manoeuvre HMS Albion into her new home for the next five or so years – the first time since 2011 the assault ship has been in open water.
It took six powerful tugs and several hours to line the 18,500-tonne vessel up ready to slip through the narrow dock gate at Devonport – there were only four metres margin for error and the whole move had to be completed in less than one hour while the tide was still slack.
Albion was put to sleep in 2011 following the previous year’s defence review, with her sister Bulwark continuing as the amphibious command ship.
Six years later, the roles are being reversed; Albion is undergoing a massive regeneration, Bulwark is being laid up in extended readiness.
It’s taken two years of work by Babcock, the ship’s company, and reservists to reach a stage in Albion’s rebirth where she could be moved from an inner basin to the amphibious warfare complex and jetty at Weston Lake – formerly ‘frigate alley’.
The shift allows the ship’s company to use her radars and communication systems unhindered and her shafts can be turned to begin testing systems more thoroughly, from her main engines to weapons such as the newly-installed Phalanx Gatling guns which replace Goalkeeper as Albion’s principal shield against missiles and air attack.
The overhaul is due to be completed this summer ahead of extensive sea trials and training before Albion is declared ready for front-line operations once more.