One of the most modern ships in the Royal Navy is in Alicante this week. HMS Kent, which is the first ship from the Carrier Strike Group to visit Spain, is currently integrated in NATO’s Standing Naval Maritime Group 2, which is under Spanish command.
The Carrier Strike Group is the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation – 9 ships, 32 aircraft and almost 4,000 personnel working together to show the UK’s commitment to open societies and economies, and the benefits of free trade. It will visit over 40 countries in a seven-month deployment, from the Mediterranean to the Indo-Pacific.
The frigate arrived in Alicante after participating in different exercises with NATO allies, including Spanish ships, and the crew is now having a welcome break after a hectic month at sea, before rejoining the Carrier Strike Group in mid-June.
Commander Matt Sykes said: “We have had a really good week with the Spanish Navy working as part of NATO’s standing Naval Forces. We’ve been operating as part of exercise Steadfast Defender, which is NATO’s largest exercise this year. We’ve done some exercises off the coast of Spain with the ship’s helicopter and with jets from the Spanish Air Force, and now we are here in Alicante, and grateful to the Spanish to allow us to come here with them.”
British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott welcomed the ship’s arrival – the first Royal Navy vessel to embark in Spain this year. “I am delighted that HMS Kent is visiting Spain at the start of the deployment of the UK’s new Carrier Strike Group,” said the ambassador.
“HMS Kent’s participation in NATO’s naval grouping under Spanish command, shows the flexibility and compatibility of our navies, and our joint work as close allies on European defence and security.”
The ship docked in Alicante on Tuesday and a reception is being held today (Wednesday) for the local authorities around the port. Because of COVID restrictions, which require everyone going on board to take a PCR test as the crew has all been vaccinated, the event takes place in the port itself, next to the frigate.
“When we sail from Alicante at the end of the week with the Spanish flagship Méndez Núñez, we will be going out into the Mediterranean in support of NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian,” explained Commander Sykes. “This operation provides maritime security on the southern flank of the Alliance, so it’s great for the UK to be contributing to that.”
- Launched by Princess Alexandra of Kent on 27 May 1998 and commissioned into the Royal Navy on 8 June 2001, she is the fourteenth of sixteen Type 23 Duke class frigates.
- Her Ship’s Company of 220 is split between the four main departments – Warfare, Logistics, Weapon Engineering, and Marine Engineering, and includes an organic Flight Team and a Royal Marine Boarding Team among other warfare specialists.
- She is a versatile and heavily armed frigate and is fitted with the vertical launch Sea Ceptor system – the ship’s first line of defence against aircraft and incoming missile attack and 4.5 Mk8 Gun. Her primary role is a submarine hunter though and she uses her hull mounted and towed array sonars to track enemy submarines and protect the CSG from this underwater threat.
- In 2020, HMS Kent was deployed on four operations – notably to the Barents Sea in company with a US task group as the first RN warship to visit the Barents in 10 + years.
- She has participated in seven exercises in the High North, North Atlantic, Baltic Sea, and around the UK during 2020. Recently, she took part in Ex Strike Warrior off Scotland as part of the UK CSG, with NATO allies and other partner nations, in their final preparations prior to sailing on deployment and Ex Steadfast Defender, working as part of NATO’s SNMG2 and the UK CSG off the coast of Portugal.
A video of the visit to Alicante this week is available here
More information on Carrier Strike Group 2021