HMS Bulwark (L15) Assumes Duties as Flagship in North Persian Gulf
From Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander,
U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs
1 March 2006
ABOARD HMS BULWARK (NNS) -- HMS Bulwark (L15), the Royal Navy's most modern
and versatile warship, assumed duties Feb. 28 from USS Cape St. George (CG
71) as the flagship for the Royal Navy staff which leads Combined Task Force
58 (CTF 58), a multinational coalition that conducts maritime security
operations (MSO) in the North Persian Gulf.
Maritime security operations help set the conditions for security and
stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the
counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny the
illegal use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to
transport personnel, weapons or other material.
"This is a real opportunity to make imaginative use of this versatile
platform. Bulwark will use her eight landing craft and specialist boarding
teams to protect a wide area, while the ship herself will provide a base
from which the Iraqi Navy and Iraqi Marines can operate their boats. With
start-of-the-art planning and command facilities, the coalition commander
and his team will be able to plan and direct high tempo operations," said
Capt. Clive Johnstone, Bulwark's commanding officer.
While in the Persian Gulf, Bulwark will help maintain stability and safe
passage in the waters surrounding two Iraqi oil platforms, Al Basra Oil
Terminal (ABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT), which contribute
significantly to the Iraqi economy. From the British warship, CTF 58 will
command the task force that includes U.S. Sailors of Mobile Security
Detachment 31 aboard the oil terminals, as well as other ships of the Royal
Navy, Royal Australian Navy, U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. Bulwark will
work closely with these coalition partners and the Iraqi Navy and Marine
Corps to provide security for these two critical infrastructures.
"It is of the utmost importance to the Iraqi economy that there is no
interruption to the revenue from its oil," said Johnstone. "This, together
with the training needed to empower the embryonic Iraqi navy to take on
these tasks, make it vital that coalition resources provides the support and
protection necessary in this vulnerable area for the time being. The
strength of a coalition is that it clearly demonstrates the support and
commitment from around the world, and underlines the importance we all place
on security and stability in the Northern Gulf."
Before arriving in the Persian Gulf, Bulwark's crew conducted MSO further
south. The ship recently served as part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150,
another coalition task force currently led by the Dutch. Coalition ships
operating as part of CTF 150 conduct MSO in the North Arabian Sea, Gulf of
Oman, Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. Vice Adm.
Patrick Walsh, Combined Forces Maritime Component commander, ultimately
leads all maritime task forces in the region and employs coalition
capabilities in MSO.
"HMS Bulwark was designed as a Commando Assault and Command ship, but these
capabilities can be adapted to provide a secure base from which to run a
diverse range of activities, from numerous boat groups operating over a
large swathe of the sea to hosting a variety of coalition specialists and
their equipments. My ship and her crew have trained to be able to switch
from one skill set to a new one at a moment's notice," the captain said.
The crew of the Royal Navy's newest commando assault and command and control
ship numbers 380, a quarter of whom are made up from 4 Assault Squadron
Royal Marines (4 ASRM). For the MSO deployment, a company of Royal Marines
from 45 Commando, as well specialist boarding teams from the Fleet
Protection Group and specialist boat groups from 539 Assault Squadron Royal
Marines embarked this ship.
Soon, two Lynx helicopters from 815 Naval Air Squadron will join Bulwark,
which celebrates its one-year commissioning anniversary in April. The ship
can transport up to 700 troops, and its flight deck can accommodate a
Chinook or three Merlin or Lynx helicopters. A large floodable dock holds
four large landing craft with another four carried on davits on the ship
Johnstone believes his crew has maximized the ship's capabilities, employing
its "unique capabilities" as a force for good and building links along the
trade routes that are key to numerous countries' chartered shipping. With
its eight landing craft, five smaller sea boats and specialist Royal Marine
and Royal Navy boarding parties, the captain said Bulwark can influence up
to 1,500 square miles at a time. These boarding teams intend to detect,
deter and deny illegal use of the maritime environment.
The training teams aboard have worked with several countries throughout the
region, sharing procedural and tactical experience. The ship's crew and
their regional counterparts have made the most of their collective local
"Operating alongside the navies and coast guards in the region is a real
opportunity to trade local knowledge and experiences of these sorts of
operations so that everyone benefits and pools their knowledge, as well as
increasing mutual understanding and making new friends," he said.
According to Johnstone, with 92 percent of all U.K.'s trade, by weight,
moved by sea, the vulnerable waters leading into the Red Sea and toward the
Suez Canal have always been of national strategic interest.
"These volatile waters are susceptible to terrorist movements, people
trafficking, smuggling and piracy. However, the Royal Navy plays a major
role with the coalition forces as they police the regional seas and bring
stability to the area," he said.
Bulwark, homeported in Plymouth, left the United Kingdom in January for a
seven-month deployment east of Suez.