The visit was part of General Richards’ Royal Navy briefing day to familiarise him with the role of the Royal Navy before he takes up his next appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff later this year.
The General was accompanied by Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, Commander-in-Chief Fleet, and Commodore Paul Bennett, Commander Amphibious Task Group.
During the visit, General Richards was briefed on the capabilities of the Royal Navy’s Amphibious Task Group and the versatility and agility of the landing platform dock function offered by HMS Albion.
He met a cross-section of the ship’s company for lunch which allowed the General to question the sailors and Royal Marines about their role onboard, the capability that Albion offers and the recent high profile Auriga 10 deployment and their part in it.
Following lunch, the General was given a tour of the ship which included the bridge, the combined operations room, the magazines and the vehicle deck.
During the tour, the conversations focused on the core military role of HMS Albion, which is to provide a floating headquarters, concurrently, for two one-star commands, namely the Commander of the Landing Force and the Commander of the Amphibious Task Force.
The General noted the benefits of collocating these headquarters which provides a unique ability to command and control land, sea and air operations simultaneously, whilst also supporting and sustaining a brigade ashore.
Whilst recognising that the ship was tailor-made to support 3 Commando Brigade and Commander Amphibious Task Group, the discussion also noted the proven suitability to accommodate the Joint Force Headquarters.
On the bridge, the General was briefed on the impressive endurance and sustainability of the ship itself which provides not only leverage in times of tension but also the versatility to react to a multitude of contingent tasks, as was proved by the recent recovery of Service personnel and civilians from Spain during the volcanic ash incident.
He was impressed by the ship’s ability to transit, non-stop and unsupported, from the UK to the Falklands and then remain on task for a further period. As a keen sailor himself, he discussed ship-handling with Albion’s navigator, Lieutenant Commander Richard Rees, and how manoeuvrable HMS Albion is for a capital ship.
The General also noted how new technology, such as the warship electronic chart display information system, allows the ship to get close to the shore, for prolonged periods, in darkness, with confidence.
In the combined operations room he discussed the principles of layered defence with Chief Petty Officer (Above Water Tactical) Murray and Leading Seaman (Warfare Specialist) Boyle, noting the additional roles the ship’s ops room team take on to execute many elements of the embarked staff’s plan.
Admiral Sir Trevor Soar said:
It was a great pleasure to welcome General Richards and update him on the range of capabilities fielded by the Royal Navy. I was delighted to be able to demonstrate the superb adaptability of our amphibious ships such as HMS Albion.
These provide the UK with a flexible, global and independent intervention capability which does not rely on foreign basing rights. This delivers choice in the manner of any intervention to both politicians and military commanders, being able to command and control a joint operation from the ship as well as launching troops and protected mobility equipment by sea and air.
Consequently they give us the ability to act at a time and place of our choosing without the constraint of relying on anyone else for access, basing and overflight permissions.
As an ex-member of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, General Richards recognised the power projection effect and was updated on theatre entry, ship to objective manoeuvre, sustainment and backload activity that is core business for those in the joint amphibious community.
Before leaving, the General thanked Albion’s Commanding Officer, Captain James Morley, for an enlightening visit that left him better informed as to the versatility and agility of these amphibious command platforms.
Then, in true amphibious style, the General left the ship via the dock by a landing craft vehicle (personnel).