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HMS Echo Survey Vessels Hydrographic / Oceanographic (SVHOs)

The Royal Navy's Surveying Service, which has been operating throughout the world since the formation of the Hydrographic Department in 1795, is responsible for hydrographic and oceanographic surveying. From its survey data, the Royal Navy produces Admiralty charts and other nautical information used worldwide. By early 2003 the Royal Navy had not paid off each of its ocean and coastal survey ships, but has decommissioned one ocean class (HMS Herald, commissioned in 1974) and two coastal class (HMS Bulldog and HMS Beagle, both commissioned in 1968) survey ships during financial year 2001-02.

Two replacement, and considerably more capable, coastal survey ships (HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise) were scheduled to enter service in May 2003 and December 2003 respectively. The contract for design, construction and 25 years' support for HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise was awarded in July 2000 at a value of 130 million. Both vessels' in-service dates were delayed by design and production difficulties at the shipbuilder and subsequent technical difficulties. HMS Enterprise's Azipod Propulsors were transferred to HMS Echo in October 2003 in order to expedite her entry into service with the Royal Navy.

The ships, equipped with two Oerlikon 20 mm cannons and tree mini-guns, can provide almost real-time tailored environmental information. HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise, two new multi-role Vessels Hydrographic/Oceanographic (SVHOs)) both built by Appledore Shipbuilders under the prime contractor Vosper Thorneycroft. With HMS Echo launched on 2 March 2002 and HMS Enterprise launched on 27 April 2002. HMS Echo was accepted into service on 17 October 2003. HMS Enterprise was accepted from the prime contractor, Vosper Thornycroft in September 2003 and was expected to enter service in the third quarter of 2004.

They have a range of 9300nm at 12 knots and an endurance of 35 days. Operationally available to the Commander in Chief Fleet for 330 days a year, a 50 per cent improvement over older existing vessels. Survey work can be carried out for 90 per cent of the year due to improvements in seakeeping. They are able to collect an array of military hydrographic and oceanographic data and due to their multi-role capability are able to support mine warfare and amphibious operations. Operating a 'lean' manned 3 watch system the total Ship's Company is 72, with 48 personnel onboard at any one time working a cycle of 75 days on, 30 days off; although to meet any contingencies, there is accommodation for 81 personnel.

A first for the Royal Navy, as they will be supported throughout the next 25 years by Vosper Thorneycroft under Contract Logistic Support (CLS), a MOD Smart Acquisition Initiative, where many of the stores, logistics and husbandry tasks will be co-ordinated and organised by the company. Extremely capable platforms, they are able to collect a wide range of military hydrographic and oceanographic data, both on and off the continental shelf, using a state of the art equipment suite.

The first RN ships to be fitted with azimuth thrusters which provide excellent efficiency and are able to turn through 360 degrees. When combined with the bow thruster through the Integrated Navigation System all three thrusters can be controlled by a joystick providing high manoeuvrability. Complete control and monitoring for power generation and propulsion, together with all auxiliary plant systems, tank gauging and damage control functions are provided through the Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS), accessible through workstations around the ship.

Both warships are designed and built to Lloyds rules to work in both hot and cold climates down to -20oC. Due to the unique operating pattern of the ships, accommodation is of an extremely high specification with all personnel sharing double cabins with ensuite facilities, except the Captain and Executive Officer who both have single cabins. Recreational spaces are also of a high specification.

HMS Echo was NATOs first warship to arrive in the Black Sea in December 2018 in the wake of the Kerch Strait incident. On 25 November, Ukraine's Berdyansk and Nikopol gunboats and the Yany Kapu tugboat illegally crossed the Russian maritime border as they sailed toward the Kerch Strait, the entrance to the Sea of Azov. Russia seized the Ukrainian vessels and detained 24 people on board after they failed to respond to demands to stop. After the incident, a criminal case on illegal border crossing was opened in Russia.

HMS Echo, bound to leave the region on 10 May 2019, entered the Black Sea on 20 April. In April 2019, NATO countries conducted military drills in the Black Sea. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko warned that increased NATO activities in the area heighten risks to security in the region, while the Russian Navy carried out its own exercise in response. The HMS Echo entered the Black Sea in April 2019 in order to participate in a freedom of navigation maneuver, according to the UKs authorities. In April, NATO conducted training in the region despite Russian warnings that the alliances activities in the area heighten security risks there. The British Royal Navys HMS Echo (H87) reconnaissance ship arrived in Odessa on the Black Sea. The vessel will stay there for three days. Joint drills with the Ukrainian Navy were expected to take place in the Black Sea. Before visiting Odessa, the ship reportedly sailed to the Romanian seaport of Constantsa and the Georgian city Batumi on the Black Sea.

Displacement, Standard:3500 tons
Displacement, Full:5000 tons
Length:89.7-90.6 metres
Speed:15 knots
Complement:46 (Max 81) / 88
  • Multi beam echo sounder
  • Single beam echo sounder
  • Survey Planning and Processing Systems
  • Side-scan sonar
  • Oceanographic Probe and sensors
  • Undulating Oceanographic Profiler
  • Doppler Current Log Sub-bottom Profiler
  • Bottom Sampling Equipment
  • Survey Motor Boat fitted with multi beam sonar and sidescan sonar
  • Propulsion:
  • Diesel electric propulsion system,
  • 3 main generators (4.8 MW total) powering
  • two 1,7 MW azimuth thrusters and
  • 0.4 MW bow thruster.

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    Page last modified: 08-05-2019 18:08:27 ZULU