A british minehunter fitted with the state-of-the-art technology has been deployed to the Arabian Gulf and the Middle East for the next two years.

HMS Middleton left her home port of Portsmouth after 18 months of refit during which she was upgraded with the Oceanographic Reconnaissance Combat Architecture (ORCA) system.

The Hunt-class vessel is the first in the fleet to be kitted out with the world-class tech, improving her ability to locate and destroy mines.

It will operate as part of Operation Kipion, Royal Navy’s commitment to promote stability in the region, as well as ensure the safe flow of oil and trade.


“The new technology improves her ability to locate and destroy mines and keeps the Royal Navy at the leading edge of mine countermeasures capability,” the navy said in a statement.

ORCA helps vessels ensure higher levels of mine detection at greater stand-off distances.

A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines.

“ORCA makes it so much easier to find and identify underwater contacts,” said Petty Officer Luke Brady, one of the ship’s two mine-hunting directors.

“This means we can classify objects as threatening or non-threatening without necessarily having to send our remote-controlled submersible, Seafox, to investigate further, saving us time and allowing us to focus on clearing genuine mines.”

The first crew to be deployed in HMS Middleton are MCM2 Crew 7, who have recently completed their Operational Sea Training (OST) off the coast of Scotland.

The intensive month-long package put the crew through their paces, from dealing with fires and floods, through to gunnery training and counter-mine warfare.

“This has been an extremely long journey to reach this point,” said MCM2 Crew 7 Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Neil Skinner.

“The major upgrades achieved in HMS Middleton are testament to the hard work and collaboration between the Royal Navy, BAE Systems, and their supporting partners.”

Following recent sea trials off the south coast of England and west coast of Scotland, ORCA has been cleared for use on operations, giving the green light for HMS Middleton to make the 6,000-mile (9,656km) journey to the Gulf.

HMS Middleton will be joined by HMS Bangor, which is a Sandown-class mine counter-measures vessel also fitted with ORCA, as the two ships will take over from HMS Brocklesby and Shoreham, deployed in the Gulf, and ultimately join HMS Chiddingfold and Penzance.

The GDN reported in April that a collision between two Royal Navy minehunter vessels resulted in damages worth £100,000 (around BD51,000).

HMS Chiddingfold crunched into HMS Penzance when it was trying to dock at the UK Naval Support Facility in Juffair on March 16.

Reports suggested the Portsmouth-based HMS Chiddingfold suffered a hole in the hull.

Meanwhile, Britain’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest and most powerful surface vessel in the Royal Navy’s history, conducted its first operational deployment in the Gulf of Eden and Arabian Gulf.

The UK’s Carrier Strike Group joined the fight against Islamic State with F-35 jets embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth carrying out their very first combat missions.

There are 18 UK and US F35B jets on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is the largest number to ever sail the seas.

The aircraft are next generation multi-role combat aircraft equipped with advanced sensors, mission systems and stealth technology.

Bahrain-headquartered coalition of 34 nations’ Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) deputy commander Royal Navy’s Commodore Ed Ahlgren said the UK plays a key role in ensuring maritime security, tackling piracy and countering narcotics smuggling.


“I welcome the contribution the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG) has made to the coalition in the region,” he told the GDN.

“Elements of CSG contributed to Combined Task Force-151, supporting counter piracy whilst transiting through the Gulf of Aden.

“They also conducted a passage exercise with Japan’s JS Setogiri.

“Beyond CMF, HMS Queen Elizabeth has worked closely with our allies, in particular the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Iwo Jim, highlighting the strength and depth of our partnerships.”

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