SAINT AND SINNER MAKE HISTORY WITH NAVY’S NEW SUBMARINE HMS AMBUSH
HMS St Albans and her Merlin helicopter made a little piece of Naval history when they delivered supplies to an Astute-class submarine at sea for the first time. The Merlin – callsign Sinner – winched stores on to the conning tower of HMS Ambush in the Irish Sea as the £1bn boat sailed for Faslane on her maiden voyage.
This is what the latest addition to the Royal Navy’s arsenal looks like from above.
This is HMS Ambush seen from the cargo door of a Fleet Air Arm Merlin as the very first transfer of supplies from a helicopter to an Astute-class attack submarine is carried out.
Ambush was making her way north through the Irish Sea on her four-day, 200-mile maiden voyage from the yard where she was built in Barrow to her new home in Faslane (for the record, she arrived there yesterday).
In nearby waters was Portsmouth-based frigate HMS St Albans on routine training when she received instructions to deliver stores to Ambush from Faslane.
The Saint sent Sinner – callsign for her Merlin helicopter from 829 Naval Air Squadron, based in Culdrose, Cornwall when not on the ship – to collect the stores, then deliver them to Ambush.
It’s a challenging manoeuvre for any aircrew and submarine given the size of a boat’s conning tower, even before you throw in other variables such as sea and weather conditions. Then add the unknown of the first-ever transfer with an Astute-class submarine.
As it turned out, it proved to be a textbook operation.
Once ‘feet wet’ – over the water – and at the rendezvous position, Sinner established communications with the boat and PO Gavin ‘Final’ Furlong prepared to lower the stores down to Ambush.
“It was a short-notice task and a submarine transfer is one of the more challenging tasks that we do, but everything went to plan. It shows that the training really works,” said Gavin.
The whole manoeuvre was watched with particular interest by the most senior rating aboard St Albans, WO1 Andy Knox.
Today he’s the frigate’s executive warrant officer – who oversees all 160-plus ratings aboard – but until joining the Saint, he spent 28 years as a submariner… including coxswain of Ambush; he was among the very first members of the boat’s crew, joining her when she was still a shell in January 2008.
Originally from Hull, but now living in Helensburgh, is getting used to copious amounts of sunlight, fresh air, ‘Hollywood’ showers – ie the chance to have a thorough rub down – and email and internet contact with his family, among them 22-year-old Kyle who’s about to become a submarine engineer in the Royal Navy and 20-year-old Kelsey who’s recently returned from a tour-of-duty in Afghanistan.