Plymouth August 5, 2015 - The lion is awakening from its three-year slumber as work begins to turn HMS Albion into the nation’s future flagship.
The assault ship has been in extended readiness since 2011 in her home base of Devonport, while her sister HMS Bulwark – currently leading the Navy’s annual amphibious Cougar deployment in the Mediterranean – has served as flagship.
Come April 2017, the two ships’ roles will be reversed as Bulwark is laid up and Albion takes her place on the right of the line.
A small group of sailors has been responsible for looking after Albion while she’s been berthed in one of Devonport’s basin.
But it will still take two and a half years to bring the 19,000-tonne assault ship fully back to life – initially courtesy of a 60-strong team of ship’s company, reservists and specialist marine engineer technicians from defence firm Babcock.
They began that Herculean task by carefully moving the ship into No.10 Dock to inspect the hull – the very first stage of any refit, and of Albion’s regeneration.
Although marine growth had attached itself to the 577ft hull, so good was the original paint scheme applied to the ship that a high-pressure wash removed it “in a jiffy”.
Other elements of the refit package planned for Albion will prove rather more demanding – computer, weapons, radar and command systems will need upgrading to keep pace with developments while the ship has been out of action.
Her engines and propulsion system will be given a full overhaul, as will the accommodation spaces and messes – more than 300 sailors, plus over 400 Royal Marines when deployed.
Commander Steve Ward, the ship’s Senior Naval Officer, said his team found the ship “in surprisingly good nick” when they stepped aboard to begin Albion’s rejuvenation.
“The first impression was very much like stepping onboard any Royal Navy warship – the core team have done a good job of keeping the patient alive these past few three years,” he added.
“We’re undaunted by the rollercoaster ride that is invariably associated with the maintenance period for any capital ship.