Former Flagship, Current “Victorinox”: HMS Albion Visited İzmir
The ship visited İzmir to provide some vacant time to the crew and conduct Defence Engagement activities with the Turkish Navy and NATO LANDCOM. Her former stop was Libya. The classical destination of Istanbul was off the table due to the Montreux Convention article 19, which is effective due to the ongoing war in the Black Sea between Russia and Ukraine. No foreign warship is allowed to cross the straits. This could also provoke some questions about British intentions. HMS Defender (D36), which visited Istanbul last year, had sailed to the Black Sea. HMS Defender followed such a route that Russia had many warning flights near the vessel.TurDef had the opportunity to visit the ship to understand her capacity better. Turkiye has recently held a NATO Dynamic Mariner exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. The activity validates the NATO Response Force (NRF) Maritime Component to ensure NATO remains ready to defend the Alliance. The training was led by the Turkish Navy’s Bayraktar class Landing Ship Tank (LST) flagship TCG Sancaktar (L403). She is the largest amphibious ship in the Turkish Navy’s inventory. When she gets into service, the vessel will hand over this title to the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu (The Pennant number is assigned as L400). HMS Albion followed the same route in January 2021 and transferred Fleet Flagship duty to HMS Queen Elizabeth.
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)TurDef visited Turkish ships TCG Anadolu and TCG Sancaktar, as well as Royal Navy’s HMS Defender.The Falkland Operation changed Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ship design radically. During the campaign, the Royal Navy realised the importance of ship design and operational readiness for amphibious operations. Two landing platform dock-type amphibious assault ships, HMS Fearless (L10) and HMS Intrepid (L11), were later replaced with HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark (L15).Designed as an amphibious warfare ship, HMS Albion transports troops, normally Royal Marines, and vehicles up to the size of the Challenger 2 main battle tank. She can deploy these forces using four Landing Craft Utility (LCUs) and four Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVPs) vessels. A flight deck supports helicopter operations up to heavy-lift class.(Video Credit: Royal Navy /HMS Albion)
The ship is designed to ease the marine’s amphibious operation preparations. The flight deck is a logistic support tool, while marines are expected to attack with LCU and LCVPs. The interior design is made accordingly. The ladders, which the soldiers use during the operation, are large and smooth. Other officers who will be in charge at the Combat Information Centre during the operation will be stationed at different parts of the ship. Their ladders are narrow but doubled. The left side is to climb, right sight to descend as British traffic rule. Other ladders that the ship crew will use are narrow and stiff, as usual.The halls that Marines will walk through are designed according to operation conditions. They are large enough to allow the mariner to carry a big rucksack and weapon.The Royal Navy describes the ship as the “Swiss Army Knife”. The ship is equipped with only close-in weapon systems such as 20mm Phalanx-1B CIWS, B-Marc 20 mm Gun, 0.50 Cal Heavy Machine Guns and 7.62 mm Mk44 minigun and general-purpose machine guns against asymmetrical threats. One could argue that she does not have a knife. But, in fact, this is the purpose of the Swiss Army Knife. A little bit of everything but nothing in particular. This is an interim solution provider to every problem. She provides the solution to command control requirements as she has a dedicated Combat Information Centre because the ship went through a major retrofit in 2016, including a new combat management system. The Type 996 E/F radar was replaced with the Type 997 E/F radar.HMS Albion’s Type 997 is a medium-range air and surface surveillance 3D radar. It serves all 13 Types 23 Frigates and all major vessels, including HMS Ocean (L12), HMS Bulwark (L15), HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and HMS Prince of Wales (R09). According to its manufacturer, BAE Systems, the radar has a 200 km range and reportedly can track more than 900 targets simultaneously.The ship is equipped with a Command-and-Control Communication suite to facilitate the complex communications required to deliver amphibious assaults from the sea. Some communication systems are standard NATO lines, such as Link 16, but some are also specific to unit communication systems.This amphibious transport dock can carry 400 sailors and Royal Marines with a wide range of skills and experience, including technicians, engineers, medics, and chefs. HMS Albion’s loading dock is crammed with trucks, machinery, and watercraft used by her crew to carry out their duties. The ship also transports emergency supplies for use in disaster relief operations, such as food, fresh water and water pumps.The ship was designed concerning United Kingdom’s relations with Norway. She fulfils her mission in the Baltic region. As fewer communication satellites in the sky cover the poles, communication capabilities are more advanced. Earth’s spheroid shape requires the ship to have more extended detection range radars.Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave, is home to several conventional and nuclear cruise missiles, long-range radars, and air defence missiles that are a thorn in NATO’s side. Should a conflict break out, another task would be to contain the Russian Baltic Fleet.The well deck of the ship sets her main feature. The lower deck has less room for land vehicles than TCG Anadolu. Internal space allows 31 large trucks to embark. The well deck, however, has more space in comparison with Anadolu. As TCG Sancaktar has no such capacity and mission, it would be inappropriate to add TCG Sancaktar to the comparison. The LCUs are deployed in the well deck. When we visited the ship, the boats were in the ship, on the deck, and they had no contact with the sea because the well dock flooded when the ship ballasts down and the stern gate is opened. This action converts the aft section of the ship into a protected harbour. The LCVPs are positioned outside on the port and starboard mooring bays.
(Photo Credit: Royal Navy /HMS Albion)At TCG Anadolu, the well deck is almost one-fifth of the lower deck. She has more space to embark on the vehicles. The well-deck embarkment area, however, is a few meters larger than the HMS Albion.Prior to the operation, each LCU are embarked according to her assault operation requirement. The LCUs positions in the well deck are arranged according to their mission order during the operation. This is a lesson learned at the Falkland Operations.(Photo Credit: Royal Navy /HMS Albion)Ship’s destiny was at the sling. The Defence Ministry considered retiring them towards the 2030s but changed their plan to decommission as part of cost-cutting measures. The draft was reversed in September 2018.
(Photo Credit: Royal Navy /HMS Albion)The Royal Navy has adapted US Marine Corps’ Littoral Combat Strike concept. Albion class ships now serve as Royal Navy’s Littoral Response Group (North) (LRG(N)). The Navy expects to use the LRGs to form the Littoral Strike Group or join with the Carrier Strike Group to form an Expeditionary Strike Force. The LRG suggests invading an island or seashore with minimum loss at maximum speed.
(Photo Credit: Royal Navy /HMS Albion)The ship’s flight deck supports helicopter operations, but the helicopters are used for transport missions. The vessel can operate two helicopters, with a third parked. CH-47s can sling-load RM BvS 10 Viking light-tracked, amphibious armoured vehicles. There is no hangar to deploy helicopters. The helicopters use the deck as part of operations and refuelling.Even though TCG Anadolu and TCG Sancaktar’s mission configurations are different from each other and HMS Albion, both navies share experiences through joint exercises.