Somerset is famous for having conducted NATO deployments to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea besides several national operations all over the world, including in the Atlantic Ocean, West Indies, Arabian Gulf, Baltic Sea, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean Sea.
The warship was recently involved in an operation against a dhow in the Indian Ocean that served as a launch pad for pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa. The four captured pirates were responsible for the earlier attack on the Italian cargo vessel Montecristo on Oct. 11.
“Willing to share the knowledge acquired during recent difficult missions, our Royal Marines demonstrated tactics to the Saudi Maritime Border Unit in boarding methods and carried out a boarding demonstration,” said Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander and weapon engineer officer Paul Evans.
“This training demonstrates the concerted international effort to ensure maritime security within the region. It is in everyone’s best interest to combat piracy, drug smuggling and people trafficking and keep the sea lanes running smoothly,” he added.
Somerset left the UK in summer after coming back from a mission in the Gulf in 2010. Since August, Royal Navy Commander Paul Bristowe and his crew had been off to Oman, Yemen and Somalia, spent Christmas in Dubai and had a maintenance period in Seychelles.
During their stopover at Jeddah Islamic Port, the Royal Navy took the opportunity to invite Saudi officials and members of the diplomatic community for a visit and reception on board the ship.
British Consul General Mohammed Shokat deeply thanked the Commanding Officer for the unique opportunity and hospitality and assisted with the rest of the diplomatic community to the Ceremonial Sunset, a very old naval ceremony performed by the Royal Navy Guard of Honour that usually concludes days of special importance and is used to salute the lowering of the Ensign at the close of the day.
Launched on June 24, 1994 by Admiral Michael Layard’s wife and officially accepted into the fleet in May 1996, the present HMS Somerset is the fourth ship to bear the name after the first three were protagonists of important battles during the 18th century, such as the Vigo Bay Battle in 1702, Velez Malaga Battle in 1704, and Toulon Battle in 1744.
With a length of 133 meters and a width of 16.2 meters, Somerset can handle a speed of 32 knots and is provided with a magnificent weapon system including missiles, torpedo, radars, sea boats and guns that are frequently used as warning signals against pirates.
“We have a surface-to-air vertical-launch missile system that can shoot down other missiles and eight ship-to-ship missiles.” explained Evans.
However, Somerset’s most fascinating weapon is the Merlin helicopter, jointly built by British, Italian and French manufacturers. Provided with a very powerful camera and performing several roles, the helicopter played a key role in helping the Royal Navy defeat pirates in the Indian Ocean four months ago.
Once back in the UK, Somerset will undergo a six-month maintenance period, during which her weapon systems will be updated. A period of trials and sea training will follow to help the crew get ready for a new mission and ensure the new systems’ efficiency.