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Sandown Class Mine Countermeasures Vessels - MCM

The only firm outcome of the 1994 'Front Line First' review was an order for 250m for seven Sandown class MCMV with Vosper Thorneycroft. They were promised in the last Defence White Paper but had only just materialised. The first of the dedicated single role mine hunters (MCMV) entered service with the Royal Navy in 1989 and eight were in service.

During mine hunting watches, the Mine Warfare Department splits in half - each watch doing six hours on and six hours off - this can continue for many days. Highly sophisticated sonar is used to search for mines on the seabed. Sandown class two PAP 104 Mk5 remote controlled mine disposal vehicles (RCMDV) are stored and launched from here. The Mine Warfare Department is responsible for this operation and comrpises the Operations Officer, a Senior Rating and two Operator Mechanics.

The actual cost per annum of operation (a) Type 23 frigates, (b) Type 22 frigates, (c) SSNs, (d) Hunt Class minehunters and (e) Sandown Class minehunters will vary considerably dependent on the tasking/maintenance undertaken. Indicative annual costs, including manpower, fuel and stores only, would be in the region of 16 million for a Type 23 and a Type 22 frigate, 11 million for an SSN, 3 million for a Hunt Class minehunter and 2 million for a Sandown Class minehunter.

The threat to the United Kingdom in mine warfare is most, most unlikely. As a result of that what the Navy are looking at is deploying our mine countermeasures forces, just in the Gulf in 1991 and very successfully and deploying them into areas where they were at great danger.

The single role minehunters [SRMH] is designed to hunt for mines in conditions where minesweeping would be impossible. It can operate, for example, in deeper water throughout the continental shelf, and is equipped with a sophisticated sonar in advance of anything comparable being used in that role elsewhere. It is also highly manoeuvrable, and has a smaller complement than the vessels it will succeed. Its GRP, non-magnetic hull is designed to reduce the threat from modern mines. Its cost is only 75 per cent. of that of a Hunt class minesweeper, and its procurement has clearly demonstrated the benefits of batch ordering. It represents excellent value for money.

Following on from announcements made in the July 2004 Defence White Paper, the Royal Navy has considered how best to reorganise mine countermeasures squadrons to deliver the operational capabilities required in the future. Due to the variations in the types of sonar on the two classes; the requirement for some HUNTs, which can be used for fishery protection duties, to be co-located with the Fishery Protection Squadron in Portsmouth; and because the Navy wished to cause the minimum amount of disruption to individuals, it was decided that the best long-term option will be provided by the formation of two single-class squadrons. This meant that all eight HUNT class vessels would be based in Portsmouth while all eight SANDOWN class vessels would be based in Scotland (Faslane). The changes required to achieve this were complete by March 2007.

There were a number of ships on the list for disposal, some vessels are being disposed of in the normal course whereas others have been declared surplus following the Government's announcement in July 2004, as a supplement to the Defence White Paper 2003-Delivering Security in a Changing World Future Capabilities. HMS Sandown, HMS Inverness and HMS Bridport, which had been withdrawn from service in 2005, were sold to Estonia in September 2006 for 32,000,000. No decision about HMS "Walney", which was decommissioned on 15 October 2010, has been made; however, any future decision will be in line with the Ministry of Defence's policy for disposing of surplus assets and the need to obtain the best financial return for the taxpayer where possible.

The White Paper "Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence Review" (Cm 7948), presented to the House on 19 October 2010, explained the Government's intention to make certain changes to the armed forces in order to deliver the force structure we require for the future and to help address the legacy of unaffordability in the defence budget. The Sandown and Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels will remain in service and start the transition to a future capability from 2018 as part of the Mine countermeasures, Hydrographic, Patrol Craft (MHPC) project.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:59:43 ZULU