HMS Sutherland makes for the Middle East

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Souped-up Sutherland makes for the Middle East
5 July 2012

HMS Sutherland today sailed from Devonport to begin six months keeping pirates and other criminals in check in the Indian Ocean.

The Fighting Clan takes over from her sister Westminster on a wide-ranging security mission east of Suez for the next six months.

Sutherland heads down the Hamoaze with survey ship HMS Scott in the background. Pictures: LA(Phot) Ben Shread, FRPU West

Big, grey and coming your way: this is Her Majesty’s Ship Sutherland setting sail on her second key deployment in 12 months, leaving the cloud-strewn skies of Devonport until the year’s end.

The Type 23 frigate – known as the Fighting Clan – sailed from her Devonshire home this afternoon bound for warmer, and more troubled waters, east of Suez.

Last year it was escorting the Cougar task group to the Mediterranean and Middle East – and smiting the forces of Colonel Gaddafi courtesy of a stint of gunnery bombarding the Libyan government’s war machine.

In 2012 her duties are keeping the waters of the Indian Ocean free of pirates, terrorists, and smugglers (of people, drugs and arms) as part of a wide-ranging maritime security mission, taking over from her sister Westminster.

In the period between the end of her 2011 deployment and this year’s tour of duty, Sutherland has received the latest version of the Seawolf missile system – effectively doubling the range of her defences should she come under air attack – and her ship’s company have undergone comprehensive training ready for their new mission.

“Sutherland’s one of the most advanced and capable warships in the Royal Navy – and I’m privileged to lead the ship on counter-piracy and maritime security operations,” said the Fighting Clan’s Commanding Officer Cdr Al Wilson

The Fighting Clan leaves Plymouth Sound behind with two iconic structures on the Hoe skyline - Smeaton's Tower and the Naval War Memorial - and a newer addition, a temporary big wheel, dominating the skyline

Just a day before departing, there was a chance to show loved ones what the new-look Fighting Clan can do, when the frigate took them to sea for a ‘families day’ off Plymouth.

There they witnessed low-flying air attacks and boarding operations as well as have a look around the rather cramped conditions the 200 sailors and Royal Marines will be living in for the next six months.

And it gave Cdr Wilson the opportunity to thank families in advance for all the support they will give while the frigate is away.

“It makes a sad day a little easier to bear,” explained Kersty Norris, the wife of WO1 Mike Norris, the most senior rating on board. She joined the families day with children Alfie and Ross.

“It is nice to meet everyone on the ship – and to see where my husband’s home will be for the next six months. It was a special day for Alfie and Rose – they didn’t want their daddy to go away. It was also nice for them to meet other children who are going to be in the same situation as them.”

They – and the rest of Sutherland’s families – will see the Type 23 frigate in home waters again just before Christmas.

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